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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 January 2006, 16:44 GMT
Syrian president may meet UN team
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad has strongly denied any role in Hariri's killing
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may meet a United Nations team investigating the murder of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Earlier, Syrian Information Minister Mahdi Dakhlallah was reported to have said that Syria would reject any meeting with the UN.

But he later said he was misquoted and no final decision had been taken.

The UN requested an interview with the Syrian president as part of its inquiry into Hariri's killing last February.

The probe has already implicated senior Syrian and Lebanese officials in Hariri's killing. Syria and Mr Assad deny any involvement.

'Embarrass Syria'

The UN has called on Syria to co-operate fully with the investigation but Mr Dakhlallah said the UN should respect Syria's sovereignty.

But he added Damascus had not ruled out any meeting between Mr Assad and UN investigators.

"There is a difference between a questioning and an audience," Mr Dakhlallah told the Reuters news agency. "The president receives visitors from Syria and outside Syria."

Last month, the UN Security Council passed a resolution endorsing a six-month extension of the Hariri murder investigation and renewing its call for Syria's full co-operation.

The BBC's Arab affairs analyst, Magdi Abdelhadi, says the stand-off between Syria and the UN is rapidly developing into another major test of the extent to which states can invoke national sovereignty to override the requirements of the international community.

The Syrians are adamant that they are innocent and have nothing to hide.

They are accused of failing to co-operate fully and unconditionally with the UN commission investigating the Hariri murder, says our correspondent.

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