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Saudi King Applauds Syria's Decision on Hariri Probe

Saudi King Abdullah applauded Syria's decision to let UN probe question its five officials in Vienna in connection with the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a senior Saudi official said Damascus on Sunday.

"The king wanted to congratulate President Bashar al-Assad for his wise and brave decision taken two days ago," Saudi Prince Bandar Bin Sultan told reporters before leaving Damascus.

Syria announced on Friday that it accepted chief UN investigator Detlev Mehlis' "compromise" proposal to question five Syrian officials at UN offices in Vienna after receiving "reassurances" that its sovereignty will be respected and rights of the individuals guaranteed.

"The decision has important impacts that serve the interests of the Arab nation and the Syrian people as well," said Bandar, also secretary general of the Saudi National Security Council. Bandar said he deliver to President Assad a letter from the king to "exchange opinions for the best interests of the Syrian and Saudi peoples and the Arab nation."

"The region is passing through a critical and sensitive stage so all need to behave wisely and carefully," he added. The pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat and Al-Hayat newspapers on Sunday quoted King Abdullah as saying that the kingdom helped broker a deal between Syria and the UN investigation commission led by Mehlis over the venue of the inquiry.

Saudi Arabia, a close ally of the United States, is a regional political heavyweight, while King Abdullah has close ties with Syria.

Hariri had Saudi citizenship and was close to the Saudi royal family.

Mehlis issued an interim report last month, implicating Syrian and Lebanese security officials in the killing of Hariri in a massive bombing in the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Feb. 14. Syria denied any involvement and dismissed the report as far from truth.

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Oct.31, demanding that Syria fully cooperate with the probe or face "further action."

Mehlis then requested to question six alleged Syrian officials, including President Assad's brother-in-law and head of military intelligence Assef Shawkat, in his office in Beirut. Syria had insisted that the venue be either in Syria or the Arab League Headquarters in Cairo and an cooperation protocol be signed before any inquiry, all rejected by Mehlis.

(Xinhua News Agency November 28, 2005)

Syria Opposes UN Bid for Beirut Queries
Syria Starts Questioning 6 Officials Named by UN Team
Syria Denies Receiving Request to Interview Syrians on Hariri Case
Syrian Judicial Committee Begins Probe into Hariri's Killing
Syrians Stage Rally to Protest UN Resolution
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