Beirut & UN - Russia ran into opposition from France, the United States and other Security Council members when it sought to ask the chief investigator probing the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister for the names of 10 countries that have failed to cooperate with his commission.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Tuesday it was the Security Council's responsibility to make sure that all countries cooperate with the investigation into Rafik Hariri's assassination. But France, the U.S., Britain and others defended the position of chief investigator Serge Brammertz, who does not want to disclose the names at this time, council diplomats said.
In his fourth report to the council on Dec. 16, Brammertz said Syria's cooperation with his investigators "remains timely and efficient" though he criticized 10 other countries - which he did not name - for failing to respond to 22 requests from his International Independent Investigation Commission.
A report last year by Brammertz's predecessor implicated Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services in the Feb. 14, 2005, bomb blast that killed Hariri and 22 others in central Beirut, and every report to the council has addressed Syria's cooperation. Four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals have been under arrest for 16 months accused of involvement in Hariri's murder.
Speaking to reporters on Dec. 18, Brammertz said he had been asked several times about disclosing the names of the 10 countries, and "we do not intend to do so."
"It's so far a bilateral issue between the commission and those countries," he said. "If this cooperation will not improve in the future, I will mention those countries to the secretary-general, but so far I have not any intention to mention the names of those countries."
Churkin said Russia decided in light of Brammertz' "rather strong" statement to ask him for the names. After initial opposition to that proposal, he said Russia put forward a compromise which was to have the Security Council president - Churkin in January - write a letter to Brammertz asking him "to be more specific the next time he reports to the council in March" on countries that are not complying.
Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari on Tuesday strongly backed the Russian initiative and named France as the country blocking the compromise.
But acting U.S. ambassador Alejandro Wolff said the U.S. and others also opposed the Russian move.
"We don't think this is the right way to go," Wolff said, stressing that the United States has "tremendous confidence" in Brammertz "and always will be guided by his view of what will help him most - and many members in the council shared that view."
France argued that if Brammertz wants the council to take action, he can ask members at any time, but the council should not interfere until he asks for assistance, a view backed by the U.S., Britain and others, council diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the consultations were closed.
Asked whether he had checked with Brammertz, Churkin said he had not.
"Mr. Brammertz has enough pressure on him without standing up to countries who are not willing to fully cooperate with him for whatever reason," Churkin said. "Those may be technical reasons. Those may be not technical reasons."
"We are in no way trying to micromanage the process ... but he is not supposed to be in the business of enforcing the compliance of states with the requirements of Security Council resolutions," Churkin said.
Russia traditionally opposes the naming and shaming of countries, but Churkin said that if the council focuses "so hard" on one country - Syria - "why should we disregard completely or even not want to know what those countries are?"
Syria's Ja'afari said "the Russian initiative goes ahead with the principle of seeking the truth."
"The Russian initiative is against singling out a country for political purposes," he said. "It goes toward knowing exactly and precisely those who have cooperated, and those who have not."
Late Tuesday, Churkin said, "I think we're very close to a kind of compromise solution on this one."
"One delegation will be contemplating its position ... and we'll also be trying to think of a way to come to a specific outcome in order to move this issue forward," he said.
Picture: Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin
Source: AP, Ya Libnan
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