Syria admits it may be forced to follow suit

01Jun07

Syria has reacted angrily to the UN’s decision to set up a special international tribunal to try the killers of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri, warning that it could worsen the already volatile situation in Lebanon.

Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has already made clear that he will not cooperate with the international body.Walid Muallem, Syria’s foreign minister, told the Guardian this week that there was a “contradiction” between Washington’s desire to improve its troubled relations with Damascus and its insistence on the tribunal, which he said undermined Lebanon’s sovereignty.

Western diplomats in Damascus see no sign of Syrian readiness to do a deal over the affair, but Syrian sources admit privately that that is now the only likely way out of the impasse. It has striking parallels with attempts to try the two Libyan agents accused of the Lockerbie bombing in 1988. The current tribunal also raises tough questions about the level of any Syrian involvement. Ghazi Kanaan, who ran Syrian intelligence in Lebanon and then became interior minister, committed suicide in 2005, days before the release of a UN report into the affair.

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