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Syria Starts Questioning 6 Officials Named by UN Team

Syria has started its own questioning of the six Syrian officials named by the UN investigation committee in the probe into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, spokesman of Syria's own probe panel said on Wednesday.

"The panel has started serious investigations and the six officials named by the international investigation committee are being questioned ... They are expected to stay in Syria until the interrogation is concluded," spokesman Ibrahim al-Darraji said.

Chief UN investigator Detlev Mehlis, currently in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, made a request through the United Nations to the Syrian government that he wants to question six Syrian officials in Lebanon.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, head of Syria's military intelligence, was reportedly among the six officials.

Damascus has not officially responded to the request, only saying it was studying it.

Earlier in the day, the official SANA news agency reported that the judicial panel has invited Mehlis to visit Damascus to discuss the "best means and mechanisms of cooperation."

Syria dived into another round of international pressure since German prosecutor Mehlis presented to the UN a preliminary report on Oct. 20 implicating Syria's involvement in Hariri's killing and urged for full cooperation from the Syrian government.

Syria has denied any role in the murder and dismissing the findings as politically motivated.

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution sponsored by the United States, France and Britain on Oct. 31,demanding Syria cooperate fully with the UN probe team, or face possible "further action".

(Xinhua News Agency November 10, 2005)

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