- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plotted strategy with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday on what steps should follow the Friday release of a U.N. report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The breakfast meeting at Mr. Annan’s residence in New York, which Miss Rice had requested, was kept secret until after it had ended and was held amid mounting pressure on Syria from the United States and France over Damascus’ involvement in Lebanon.

“It was a good opportunity to compare notes,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.

“There is a busy calendar of events coming up over the next week,” he said, citing the release of the initial Hariri report by U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis, as well as its discussion in the Security Council.

U.N. envoy Terje Roed-Larsen is scheduled to brief Mr. Annan this week on Syria’s implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, which called on Damascus to end its three-decade-long de facto occupation of Lebanon.

The Bush administration says Syrian intelligence agents are still active in Lebanon, and Miss Rice told Damascus in June to “knock it off.”

Mr. McCormack yesterday renewed Washington’s call on Syria to open an embassy in Beirut, which would be a signal that Damascus recognizes Lebanon as a sovereign state.

He declined to speculate on what the Mehlis report might say about the Feb. 14 assassination, in which the United States suspects Syrian involvement, or what actions Washington might pursue in the council.

Some diplomats suggested that Miss Rice would need Mr. Annan’s help with Russia, which holds veto power. During her trip to Moscow last week, the secretary failed to win support on Syria, as well as Iran over its nuclear program.

“We’ll have an opportunity to discuss both of the reports with the other members of the Security Council, as well as members of the international community that have an interest in this topic, and talk about what actions, what further steps, if any, might be warranted by what’s contained in the reports,” Mr. McCormack said.

Miss Rice and Mr. Annan also discussed an extension of Mr. Mehlis’ investigation, which the Lebanese government has requested, a State Department official said.

Mr. Mehlis received an extension in August of his Sept. 15 deadline.

Mr. McCormack also noted Syria’s lack of cooperation with U.S. and coalition forces to prevent foreign terrorists from entering Iraq.

The State Department’s coordinator on Iraq, James Jeffrey, said the United States was growing more impatient with Damascus for not doing enough to stop a “flood of foreign fighters” going into Iraq.

“That has to be stopped. We are looking for a change in Syrian behavior. We have not yet seen it, and we are impatient,” Mr. Jeffrey said at the Foreign Press Center.

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