Syrian troop pullout pledge'only first step' - Fischer

7th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

7 March 2005 , BERLIN - Syria's pledge to withdraw its troops from Lebanon is a step in the right direction but a firm timetable for the pullout is now needed, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said on Monday. "This announcement can only be the first step," said Fischer in a statement, adding that Berlin expected a "concrete design for the complete withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon". Germany and its European Union partners would support all measures leading to an independent and sovereign Leba

7 March 2005

BERLIN - Syria's pledge to withdraw its troops from Lebanon is a step in the right direction but a firm timetable for the pullout is now needed, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said on Monday.

"This announcement can only be the first step," said Fischer in a statement, adding that Berlin expected a "concrete design for the complete withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon".

Germany and its European Union partners would support all measures leading to an independent and sovereign Lebanon, said Fischer.

Syria has about 14,000 troops in Lebanon. Syrian President Bashar Assad on Saturday pledged a troop pullout.

But Assad, who is under growing pressure from the US and France to leave Lebanon, gave no schedule for a withdrawal.

However, six Syrian military vehicles carrying soldiers and boxes were seen moving Monday from the area of Ain Dara, 55 kilometers southeast of Beirut, towards the Bekaa valley, an eyewitness told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

The trucks were moving from the Syrian post in Ain Dara towards Mudayrij in the eastern Bekaa valley, the witness said.

Three more trucks were seen moving from the Syrian post of Falgouha, another witness said.

The move comes as the presidents of Lebanon and Syria agreed that Syrian troops based in Lebanon would be redeployed in the eastern Bekaa by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, French President Jacques Chirac on Monday warned the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah over its support for keeping Syrian troops in Lebanon while renewing demands for a pullout by Damascus.

Chirac, after a meeting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, said he was closely following Hezbollah's moves regarding Syria and stressed that it must adhere to democratic means.

"This must not be an incentive to launch attacks against (Lebanese) democracy," said Chirac.

Hezbollah, which had not taken a public stance on anti-Syrian protests sweeping Lebanon, on Sunday abruptly called for counter rallies in Beirut to back Syria's 14,000 troops stationed in the country.

An Iranian influenced Shiite Muslim group, Hezbollah is defined by the US as terrorist organization and has emerged as a major player in Lebanon.

President Chirac renewed demands that Syria withdraw its troops from Lebanon.

"We support not only the withdrawal of Syrian troops but also of the Syrian secret service," he said.  

DPA

Subject: German news

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