Published November 01, 2005
DAMASCUS, Syria – Syria called for an emergency Arab League (search) summit in a bid Monday to rally regional support in the face of a stern, unanimously adopted U.N. Security Council resolution demanding greater cooperation in the probe of the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister.
But Arab diplomats, anticipating lack of broad support for a summit of all 22 members, suggested a smaller gathering of Syria (search), Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Lebanon and Egypt if others decline out of concern over harming ties with the resolution's prime sponsors — the United States, France and Britain.
To win unanimous approval, the three sponsors dropped a reference to sanctions should Syria not cooperate. Veto-holding members China and Russia had refused to accept that language.
Speaking at Arab League headquarters in Cairo, the diplomats said Secretary-General Amr Moussa sent a special envoy to Persian Gulf countries informing them of the Syrian request. The diplomats, who were not authorized to speak for publication, said Syria hoped to hold a meeting after Eid el-Fitr, the Muslim religious holiday that concludes the Ramadan month of fasting, either Wednesday or Thursday.
Anti-Syrian Lebanese political leader Walid Jumblatt, meanwhile, warned Damascus could face chaos and instability like that roiling Iraq should President Bashar Assad (search) fail to cooperate with the U.N. probe into the Feb. 14 bombing in Beirut that killed Rafik Hariri and 20 other people.
"If (he) acts like Saddam did, yes, we are heading to a situation similar to what happened in Iraq," Jumblatt said in an interview with the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya satellite television channel late Sunday. "But if he acts in order to preserve Syria's national unity and Syria's interest before (serving) the brother-in-law, a brother or anyone, he can save Syria."
Jumblatt was referring to Assad's brother, Maher Assad, and his brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, the chief of military intelligence, who were named in an initial report submitted by U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis on Oct. 28.
The Syrian leader appears to be in an increasingly isolated and weakened position since initial findings linked his security services and those in Lebanon, where Damascus held dominion until last April, to the Hariri murder. Critics of the drive to further isolate Assad warn Syria could fall into the hands of a radical Islamic regime or another type of leadership far more hostile to the West and Israel.
The Security Council vote requires Syria to detain anyone the U.N. investigators consider a suspect and allow investigators to determine the location and conditions for questioning. It would freeze assets and impose a travel ban on suspects named by the investigative commission.
In Lebanon, pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud described Hariri's assassination as "a big conspiracy" aimed at undermining Lebanon's stability and its position, including the policy of resisting U.S.-led efforts to promote a peace settlement that Beirut considers favoring Israel's interests.
While Syria has rejected accusations of its involvement in Hariri's killing, it buckled under international pressure and withdrew its soldiers from Lebanon in April, ending a 29-year presence in its smaller neighbor. It also announced over the weekend that it had formed a commission to carry out its own investigation into the Hariri assassination.