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U.N.: Syria hindering Hariri probe

Bolton says lack of cooperation is unacceptable

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Assassinated: Rafik Hariri.

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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- A top U.N. official said Thursday that Syria was not fully cooperating with the investigation into February's assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, refusing to turn over documents and ignoring interview requests.

Ibrahim Gambari, the U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs, outlined the accusations during a briefing of the 15-member Security Council about the progress of the investigation.

The probe is being headed by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, who said Syria has "considerably slowed down" his work.

The U.N. Security Council issued a toned-down statement after the briefing -- without mentioning Syria by name -- calling on all parties to cooperate, "especially those who are yet to respond adequately."

Algeria and Russia reportedly blocked tougher language on the resolution.

Hariri, who had been pushing for the withdrawal of Syrian troops in Lebanon, and 20 others were killed in a massive car bombing in Beirut in February. Many Lebanese leaders have blamed Syria for the attack.

John Bolton, the newly installed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said he was disappointed the Security Council was not tougher in its statement, and he blasted Syria for its delays.

"This lack of cooperation is unacceptable," he told reporters after the closed-door session. "This is an investigation of a brutal assassination, and the fact is that the evidence and evendentiary trails grows cold with delay."

He added: "Let there be no ambiguity about the American view -- that Syria's lack of cooperation with the independent international investigatory commission is unacceptable."

Gambari told the Council that investigators contacted all the parties involved on June 11 and that they went back to the Syrians on July 19, but got no response.

Syrian ambassador Feysel Mekdad rejected the accusations and said his country was willing to cooperate. Late Thursday, U.N. officials said Mehlis would likely meet Friday in Geneva, Switzerland with the Syrians.

Hariri's killing prompted widespread demonstrations in Lebanon and an international outcry for Syria to fully comply with a U.N. resolution demanding Syria to withdraw all its troops and intelligence assets, which had been there since the mid-1970s. Syria has since done that, pulling out its force.

The U.N. investigation team began its probe in June and was a give a three-month deadline, but U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said their work might be extended.

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