German officials have welcomed a US-French draft resolution threatening sanctions if Syria does not fully cooperate with a UN investigation into the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
German investigator Detlev Mehlis handed his report to Kofi Annan
A German foreign ministry spokesman called the draft "balanced" and urged all parties involved to cooperate with the probe, led by German investigator Detlev Mehlis.
"The German government urges all countries to fully and completely cooperate with the independent UN commission," the spokesman said. "It acknowledges that (Syrian) President (Bashar) Assad said he wanted to cooperate with it and we hope that actions will now follow these words."
Lebanese Hariri supporters thanked Mehlis for his work
The draft, co-sponsored by Britain and circulated late Tuesday, demands the arrest of any Syrian national suspected of involvement in the assassination and greater cooperation with UN investigators.
"We consider the text of the resolution to be balanced on the whole," the spokesman said, adding that Berlin was doing "everything to support the work of the independent commission" led by Mehlis.
Fi n al report i n mid-December
He said that Berlin hoped Mehlis' final report, due in mid-December, would "create clarity" about who was behind the assassination and their motives.
"The heart of the (US-French) draft is that everything must be undertaken to create clarity and that all the parties must do their utmost and contribute to the success of this mission," he said.
Two tourists walk past a giant poster of Hariri in Beirut
When asked whether Germany backed the threat of sanctions against Syria, the spokesman said Berlin hoped they would not be necessary.
"We hope that such an option would not have to be implemented because all the parties have already said they will fully cooperate," he said.
Drummi n g up support
The US, Britain and France, a resolution's main proponents, meanwhile sought to enlist broad support from other UN Security Council members.
But a Russian foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by Interfax that "Russia will do everything necessary for there not to be attempts at declaring sanctions against Syria."
Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Bush in September
Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad of the "pressing need for balanced action from the international community so as not to allow new flashpoints of tension in the region."
Syria strikes back
In the first official Syrian reaction to the draft, Damascus' UN envoy on Wednesday dismissed it as a US "political statement" against his country.
Syrian women hold posters showing President Bashar Assad
"This is a US agenda against Syria," ambassador Fayssal Mekdad told reporters.
Approval of a resolution requires support of at least nine members on the 15-member council and no opposition from any of the five permanent veto-wielding members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.