KOFI ANNAN WARNS WORLD IS WORRIED SYRIA WILL BECOME ANOTHER IRAQ SITUATION

NOV 21 2005

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

 

 

Middle East leaders want Syria to cooperate with a U.N. inquiry into the killing of a former Lebanese leader but fear a U.N. confrontation with Damascus could lead to "another Iraq," Secretary General Kofi Annan said on Monday.

 

During a recent tour of the region, every capital Annan visited wanted to see Syria convinced to cooperate through diplomatic means rather than via a change in regime or military action as occurred in neighboring Iraq, Annan told reporters.

 

The region's leaders "are all concerned and anxious to see Syria cooperate and to see the issue settled diplomatically and not lead to a situation that destabilizes possibly Syria and Lebanon," he said. "They are worried if we are leading to another Iraq situation."

 

Annan said he assured them the U.N. Security Council wanted only "to get to the truth and ensure that the culprits are brought to justice."

The 15 nation council ordered the U.N. inquiry into the February 14 murder of former Prime Minister Rafik al Hariri in a Beirut truck bombing, and also demanded that Syria cooperate.

 

Top U.S. leaders have repeatedly warned Syria in recent weeks to fully cooperate with the investigation.

 

Some U.S. officials have also hinted that Annan was stepping on investigators' toes by pressing for a compromise after Detlev Mehlis, who heads the U.N. inquiry, insisted on questioning six top Syrian officials in Lebanon where he has the power to detain suspects and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad refused.

 

But Annan defended calls he made last week to Assad in search of agreement on a site where Mehlis could question the officials.

Mehlis ultimately rejected the compromise proposed by Assad and Annan that he use U.N. offices in the Golan Heights.

 

Talks on a site are continuing Mehlis is working against a December 15 deadline for completing his inquiry. But diplomats say he could go back to the council before that date if he concludes Syria is not cooperating.

 

The United States launched an invasion of Iraq in March 2003, toppling Saddam Hussein after accusing Baghdad of violating council resolutions insisting it rid itself of all weapons of mass destruction. No such arms turned up afterward.

 

"Mehlis is carrying out his work professionally and competently. I have had the chance to assist him sometimes," Annan said. "It is my duty as secretary general to do whatever I can to assist to make sure that everybody cooperates."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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