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Damascus Launches Diplomatic Campaign

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem was touring the Gulf yesterday to drum up Arab support on the eve of a United Nations meeting to discuss possible sanctions against Damascus.

In an apparent effort to head off a tough draft Security Council resolution backed by the United States and France, Syria launched its own investigation on Saturday into the killing of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

The inquiry, ordered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, will question Syrian civilians and military personnel and co-operate with a UN inquiry that has already implicated senior Syrian officials in the February 14 assassination, officials said.

Mualem delivered a letter to King Abdullah from Assad on Saturday evening about Saudi Arabia's support at a meeting of Security Council foreign ministers today.

"King Abdullah confirmed the kingdom stands by Syria's side against the pressures it is being subjected to by some international sides," said Syria's official SANA news agency.

Assad discussed the issue with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during Mubarak's surprise visit to Damascus on Friday. Egypt says it wants to defuse tension between Syria and the United States.

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara left for New York yesterday.

(China Daily October 31, 2005)


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