France, Germany want full Syria exit from Lebanon

7th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

BLOMBERG, Germany, March 7 (AFP) - As tens of thousands of opposition supporters rallied in Lebanon, the leaders of Germany and France called on Syria on Monday to completely withdraw its forces from its tiny neighbour.

BLOMBERG, Germany, March 7 (AFP) - As tens of thousands of opposition supporters rallied in Lebanon, the leaders of Germany and France called on Syria on Monday to completely withdraw its forces from its tiny neighbour.

In a joint declaration after talks in Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac demanded "free and transparent elections which would allow the Lebanese people to determine their democratic future."

Their call came as it was announced in Damascus that Syrian troops in Lebanon would pull back towards the eastern Bekaa Valley by the end of March, a move seen as falling short of international demands.

Syria has been under intense diplomatic pressure to end its political and military grip on its neighbour three decades after it sent in troops following the start of Lebanon's civil war.

The two leaders, who consider their alliance the engine of European Union integration, called on Syria to make "a full withdrawal of its troops and (security) services from Lebanon as quickly as possible."

They reaffirmed their "commitment to Lebanon's independence, sovereignty and democracy" and said their countries were ready to help if needed.

"We will remain vigilant concerning the timetable for the steps to come and, like all the international community, we remain mobilised," they said.

In Beirut, police said that more than 150,000 people, many waving red and white national flags, attended a rally to demand the truth about the killing three weeks ago of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

Schroeder and Chirac said they expected "the Lebanese and Syrian authorities to fully cooperate with the investigators sent by the United Nations to shed light" on the killing.

Hariri, who had begun to criticise Syria, died in a bomb blast three weeks ago that has been widely blamed on the Lebanese regime and its Syrian backers.

The pro-Syrian militia group Hezbollah, which had a strong ally in Hariri, has said it supports the military withdrawal and has called for demonstrations against what it claims is foreign interference in Lebanon.

"I have no criticism of Hezbollah's position," Chirac said, "as long as it is expressed in a democratic way."

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who was also involved in the talks in Blomberg, northern Germany, said in a statement from Berlin that he welcomed Syria's pledge to redeploy its troops but also urged a full withdrawal.

"The recent announcements by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad before the Syrian parliament about the planned withdrawal of Syrian troops from its neighbour point in the right direction," he said.

"But the announcement can only be the first step. The goal must be the full and speedy implementation of UN Resolution 1559 from September of last year. The specific plans for a complete withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon must be made on this basis."

In other developments after their talks, Chirac said that the European Union Stability and Growth Pact must have a "political" dimension and that sanctions should not be automatically triggered once the pact's guidelines are exceeded.

Warning against "technocratic brutality," Chirac said the pact "must not be purely technocratic, it must be political".

"Each country has its own different characteristics," he said.

The pact is currently the subject of discussions in Brussels among EU finance ministers over ways to adapt or reinterpret how it works in underpinning the credibility of the euro.

Germany and France are in breach of its spending restrictions.

Under the pact, the 12 countries using the single currency are not allowed to run public deficits in excess of 3.0 percent of gross domestic product.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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