Published October 25, 2005
UNITED NATIONS – Arab countries have remained silent in the days after a U.N. report was released implicating top members of Syrian President Bashar Assad's (search) inner circle in former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's (search) assassination.
The United States was trying to muster support among its allies for a tough U.N. Security Council resolution that would include sanctions against Syria for its alleged role in the Hariri assassination.
But no one outside Syria seems to be listening to its increasingly defiant claim of innocence in Hariri's murder. There doesn't even appear to be any Arab effort to help Syria broker a deal with Washington that would get Damascus off the hook.
Prominent Arab commentators have ridiculed the Syrian media campaign that has tried to discredit the report, written by chief U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis (search), as politicized, unfair and unprofessional.
Others have told Syria it will end up like Libya or Iraq — countries that have been hurt by international sanctions — if it doesn't cooperate with the international community.
"Clever politics are not run by editorials in the (Syrian) newspapers Tishrin and Al-Baath, but should be managed by minds that understand the world and realize that the world around Syria has changed a lot," said Ahmed al-Rubei, a former Kuwaiti legislator, in a column in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.
Damascus has been trying unsuccessfully to open its own channels with Washington through Syrians who have visited the United States as lecturers or researchers, Ayman Abdel-Nour, a Syrian analyst and member of the ruling Baath party, said.
"They've been trying hard to reach out to the Americans, but they have received no response," he said.
U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the two Arab countries who usually speak for Syria, want Damascus to fully cooperate with the U.N. investigation before they extend a helping hand, according to Egyptian and Saudi officials.
Saudi Arabia took Hariri's assassination personally. Hariri carried dual Lebanese-Saudi citizenship and represented the kingdom's influence in Lebanon.
Although it has not commented on the report, Saudi Arabia has sent strong signals it takes it seriously.
It allowed Hariri's son and political heir, legislator Saad Hariri, on Saturday to appear in a live broadcast from the seaside Saudi city of Jiddah to praise the Mehlis report and call for an international court to try the culprits.
"All the region's countries want Damascus to stay stable and will do their best to achieve that," Abdul-Rahman al-Rashed, a Saudi who heads Al-Arabiya TV station, wrote in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. "But they won't be able to extend a hand without Damascus itself cooperating" with the investigation.
So far, Syria appears to have taken a hard-line course. Its officials and state-run media say the report was part of a systematic campaign against their country because of its staunchly anti-Israel, anti-imperialist stands.
On Monday, the government staged massive protests in which demonstrators shouted slogans against the United States and the Mehlis report.
Abdel-Nour, the Syrian analyst, said the Syrian government response has been inadequate and that a foreign ministry statement dismissing the report and the demonstrations have left Syrians more confused.
"Plus, how can the foreign ministry say Syria wants to cooperate and then have a demonstration in which people insult Mehlis?" said Abdel-Nour.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.