Barnier urges more 'concrete acts' from Syria

6th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 6 (AFP) - Syria's promise to pull its troops in Lebanon back to the border is important but has to be followed by "concrete acts" and must notably signify a full withdrawal, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said Sunday.

PARIS, March 6 (AFP) - Syria's promise to pull its troops in Lebanon back to the border is important but has to be followed by "concrete acts" and must notably signify a full withdrawal, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said Sunday.

"The speech by (Syrian) President Bashar al-Assad is an important speech, we have taken notice of it," Barnier told French radio station Europe 1.

But, he added, "we expect to see precise and concrete acts."

France, with the United States, has sponsored a UN resolution which calls for Syria to pull its 14,000 soldiers out of Lebanon and cease meddling in that country's political affairs.

After months of pressure, Assad on Saturday announced the troops would be redeployed to the Syrian-Lebanese border. His emigrants’ minister, Bussaina Shaaban, later told CNN that the soldiers would be withdrawn to "the Syrian side of the border."

The lack of timetable and details of the planned move, and the absence of any mention of Syrian intelligence operatives in Lebanon, has left several countries - including the United States - sceptical that Assad will fully abide with the UN resolution.

Barnier, though, said: "A promise made in a solemn occasion has come from the mouth of the Syrian president to apply resolution 1559."

He said that "what is important is that the withdrawal of the Syrian troops, the Syrian intelligence services, be an effective and complete withdrawal."

It would be up to the United Nations to decide whether Assad had complied with the resolution, he said.

Adopted on September 2, 2004 by the UN Security Council, resolution 1559 "demands the immediate withdrawal from Lebanon of all foreign troops."

Syrian troops entered Lebanon to try to restore peace during that country's 15-year long civil war which ended in 1990 under the Taef agreement.

This provided for a phased redeployment of the Syrian forces but set no timetable, leaving it to agreement between Beirut and Damascus. In a series of redeployments since June 2001, Syrian troop numbers have fallen from 40,000 to 14,000.

Since the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri last month which provoked an upsurge in anti-Syrian sentiment in Lebanon, the United States and France have stepped up their campaign to have the foreign troops leave.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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