Syria rejects French-backed UN orderto pull out of Lebanon

20th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 19 (AFP) - The UN Security Council on Tuesday called unanimously for Syria to pull its troops out of neighbouring Lebanon, a demand that the Syrians quickly rejected.

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 19 (AFP) - The UN Security Council on Tuesday called unanimously for Syria to pull its troops out of neighbouring Lebanon, a demand that the Syrians quickly rejected.

Syria instead blamed the United States and France for trying to manipulate the council and underlined it had taken no action in the face of the deadly Israeli offensive against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Capping days of diplomatic haggling, the 15-member council agreed on a statement calling on Damascus to comply with a previous resolution pushed through the council in September, which demanded the military pullout.

The United States and France battled to get the statement adopted despite strong opposition on the council, which only passed the September resolution with the minimum of nine votes in favour and six abstentions.

Syria is the main power broker in Lebanon and the current furore was set off when the Lebanese parliament changed the constitution to allow President Emile Lahoud, a Syrian protégé, to stay in office for an extra term.

The statement calls on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to report to the council every six months on the implementation of resolution 1559, which also demands the disarming of militant groups in Lebanon such as the Hezbollah.

"We all know that the resolution would not be implemented overnight," French ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere told reporters.

"We will now look forward to the next report when it comes six months from now."

Syria is believed to have around 16,000 troops on the ground in Lebanon, the remains of a much larger force sent in during Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, and both Beirut and Damascus insist the troops are there by mutual agreement.

Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara, speaking in Brussels, said 1559 was "illegal intervention" in his country's relations with Lebanon, which for its part said the council statement set a "dangerous precedent of interference" in the internal affairs of a member state.

At the United Nations, Syrian Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad said there was nothing in the relationship with Damascus that threatened world peace and security," using the language of the UN Charter on the Security Council's mandate.

"Syria is very much committed to continue helping the Lebanese brotherly people until a final agreement is reached, as requested by the Lebanese government, vis-a-vis the Syrian presence in Lebanon," he said.

One of the key provisions of Resolution 1559 is the disarmament of militant groups such as the Hezbollah, whose guerrilla war helped drive Israel out of southern Lebanon in 2000 after 22 years of occupation.

After the Israeli withdrawal, the militant Hezbollah - a Shiite group which also has the backing of US arch-foe Iran - took over effective control of much of the south of the country.

The Arab world has repeatedly pointed the finger at the United States over Security Council action in the Middle East, in particular Washington's regular use of its veto power to block resolutions criticising Israel.

The United States vetoed a resolution earlier this month calling for an end to Israel's Gaza Strip offensive, a move that many in the Arab world saw as a sign of double standards of US policy in the Middle East.

Deputy US ambassador Anne Patterson said the new council statement was a "strong signal" because it had been adopted unanimously - after the reporting period for Annan was changed from every three months to every six.

"It will keep Syria's feet to the fire on complying with the requirements of the resolution," she told reporters.

"The requirements of the resolution, which sort of got lost in this discussion, are not to interfere with Lebanon's internal political processes and to get the Syrian troops out of Lebanon," Patterson said.

Syria and Lebanon have both denied any interference in Lebanon's politics, including in the decision to let Lahoud remain in office.


Subject: French News

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