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U.N. Council adopts tough resolution against Syria

 Reuters/October 31, 2005

UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Monday in favour of a tough resolution demanding Syria cooperate with a U.N. probe into the death of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri or face possible punitive measures.

The resolution was adopted 15-0 after the principal drafters, the United States and France, agreed to delete a specific reference to economic sanctions. Instead the resolution would consider possible unspecified "further action" if Syria did not comply.

A dozen foreign ministers or their deputies from the 15 Security Council members travelled to New York for the meeting, underlying the importance of the vote.

The measure demands Syria cooperate "unconditionally" with a U.N. probe into the February 14 assassination in Hariri and orders Damascus to take into custody and make available to U.N. investigators people suspected of involvement in the killing.

It also calls for a financial freeze and travel ban on individual suspects to be named by a U.N. commission, headed by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, or the Lebanese government. But any Security Council member can object to a name on such a list.

The death of Hariri, an opponent of Syrian domination

of his country, transformed Lebanon's political landscape. The killing led Syria to pull out its troops from Lebanon after three decades and has put increasing pressure on Lebanon's pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud to resign.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cast the American vote in the Security Council and has sought to isolate Syria over the past year because of Lebanon. And she has accused Damascus of allowing foreign fighters to cross over its border to Iraq where more than 150,000 U.S. troops are fighting a bloody insurgency.