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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 December 2005, 18:41 GMT
Syria to help new UN investigator
Farouq al-Sharaa
Foreign Minister al-Sharaa has criticised the UN report
Syria's foreign minister says his country will co-operate with the next head of the UN inquiry into the killing of the former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri.

Farouq al-Sharaa said Damascus would offer the new chief investigator "all possible help to reach the truth".

The current head of the inquiry, German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, is stepping down after seven months in charge.

On Friday, the UN Security Council voted to extend the inquiry's mandate by six months.

In a unanimous vote, it said Syria had still to provide the UN's commission with "the full and unconditional co-operation" it had demanded.

The UN commission believes Syrian and Lebanese intelligence officials were involved in the bomb blast that killed Hariri in February.

Syria denies the charge and insists it has co-operated fully.

'False witnesses'

Speaking after a meeting in Cairo between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Egyptian counterpart, Hosni Mubarak, Mr Sharaa said the new investigator would be welcome in Damascus.

"We in Syria have decided that we will deal sincerely and constructively with the new head of the international committee and we will give him all possible help to reach the truth," he said.

"We don't want to tell him that such and such happened in the previous investigation - that there were false witnesses whose intentions appeared afterwards and there were biased witnesses with narrow interests in Lebanon who gave statements that do not serve the investigation and the truth."

UN diplomats say Mr Mehlis is likely to be replaced by Serge Brammertz, the Belgian deputy prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

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