01/20/2006, 00.00
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Annan announces Syria will cooperate with probe into Hariri murder

by Jihad Issa
In Beirut many are convinced the commission of inquiry will be able to meet Assad. Syrian and Iranian presidents show unity and mutual support against international pressures on second day of their summit. Both reiterate support for Hezbollah.

Damascus (AsiaNews) – Yesterday, on the day the new head of the UN commission of inquiry into the Hariri assassination, Serge Brammertz, arrived in Beirut, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced that Syria was willing to cooperate fully with the probe into the Hariri assassination. Mr Annan said Syrian Foreign Minister Faruk al-Shara phoned him on Wednesday, and guaranteed Syria's full cooperation with Mr Brammertz.

In Beirut some observers believe the commission might speak to Assad without him appearing as a witness. His dignity will thus be preserved.

In Damascus, Bashar al-Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad showed unity on the second day of their summit. They expressed support for their respective positions in their ongoing confrontation with the international community, and pledged their support for Hezbollah in Lebanon even though Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has called for the disarmament of the 'Party of God' in accordance with UN demands.

In addition to signing several cooperation agreements, Assad and Ahmadinajad renewed their unconditional support for the "Lebanese resistance and its military presence" rejecting all international pressures against Lebanon and Syria or any attempt of internationalising the Lebanese problem.

In a press briefing, the Iranian president also appealed to all Lebanese groups, of all religious denominations and political leanings to drop attitudes that divide the country. Tensions in Lebanon, he said, spill over into all other countries in the region.

He added that other states, especially the US, Great Britain and France should allow the peoples of the region to shape their alliances and find their own solutions to their problems.

Both presidents called on the US to pull out its forces out of Iraq and confirmed their support to the Palestinian people in its struggle against Israel, reiterating the legitimate rights of Palestinians to return to their land.

Ahmadinejad, who said both countries are political on the same level, announced a new summit to be held next month in Tehran. He thanked his Syrian counterpart for Syria's support of Iran's right to develop nuclear technology, a right that Assad considers an inherent right of any country.

In Beirut, Brammertz has already begun his work, announcing that the commission of inquiry's mandate will be broader and include terrorist attacks perpetrated in Lebanon since October 2004 as requested by the Lebanese government.

A UN official who preferred not to be named confirmed today that some members of the commission of inquiry might travel to Syria next week, as reported in the Lebanese press, for an information-gathering meeting with President Assad. They should discuss how to organise a "formal" meeting with Assad who still refuses to be heard as a witness to the inquiry into the Hariri assassination of February 14 last year in Beirut.

Meanwhile, a battle of nerves continues in the Lebanese capital between Hezbollah and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who is calling for the implementation of UN resolution 1559 on disarming militias. In an interview, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who has pulled his ministers from the cabinet, called on Siniora to explain his views on the Shiite resistance.

Speaking to AsiaNews, General Michel Aoun called for early elections and, like Nasrallah, renewed his demand for a "new government of national government capable of governing the country in this very difficult historical moment".

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See also
Ahmadinejad arrives in Damascus, Brammertz in Beirut
Possible link between Hariri murder and 14 other attacks, says Brammertz
Mehlis leaves, UN probe into Assad's role continues
Sec of State Rice snubs Syria
UN commission to see Assad about Hariri assassination


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