US, France slam Syria's 'partial' troop pull-out

8th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 7 (AFP) - Dissatisfied with Syria's pledge to redeploy its troops in Lebanon, France and the United States on stepped up pressure on Damascus for a quick and complete withdrawal.

PARIS, March 7 (AFP) - Dissatisfied with Syria's pledge to redeploy its troops in Lebanon, France and the United States on stepped up pressure on Damascus for a quick and complete withdrawal.

President Jacques Chirac of France and US President George W. Bush agreed Monday on "their determination to obtain the full and complete implementation of (UN) resolution 1559" on the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, Chirac's office said.

Bush called Chirac Monday evening to discuss with Chirac the situation in Lebanon following the statements of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the redeployment of Syrian troops in Lebanon, said Chirac's spokesman, Jerome Bonnafont.

Syria on Monday pledged to pull back its troops in Lebanon towards the eastern Bekaa Valley by the end of March but stopped short of announcing the rapid withdrawal demanded by the international community.

In a joint statement issued after a summit in Damascus, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Lebanese counterpart Emile Lahoud did not offer a timetable on the next phase after the forces are pulled back to the Bekaa.

The United States was quick to express its displeasure at the results of the meeting, with spokesman Scott McClellan saying "we need to see by action, not words" from Damascus.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also spoke Monday with the European Union's top foreign policy representative Javier Solana and French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier about "how we needed to see the Security Council resolution fully implemented (and) also about how we needed to continue our discussions of how the international community can help with that," the department's spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.

France and the United States were the two countries behind the adoption last September of the resolution, which calls for an immediate and complete pullout of Syrian troops, following a deployment of almost three decades.

Syria is under intense pressure to end its political and military grip on Lebanon after Damascus first sent in troops in 1976 shortly after the start of the country's devastating civil war, which ended in 1990.

There are now 14,000 Syrian troops in the country, with as many as 5,000 believed to be deployed outside of the Bekaa valley.

While Assad did not publicly commit to a full withdrawal, other officials have been saying Syria plans to make a complete pull-out.

Decisions taken by Assad and Lahoud presidents had been made "with a view to a complete Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon", a Syrian official, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

A diplomat said that the text signed at Monday's summit was designed to give Syria a breathing space so it could go ahead with a "programmed and organised" withdrawal of troops from the country.

The United States and France are also concerned about the security situation inside Lebanon as Syrian troops withdraw.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States, France and the United Nations might consider the possibility of setting up a team to monitor security in Lebanon as the Syrians withdrew.

"One of the things we need to talk about is sort of monitoring of the security situation in Lebanon after the withdrawal," the official said, without elaborating.

Pressure on Syria to withdraw its troops has increased dramatically since the killing of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in a bomb blast three weeks ago.

The murder of Hariri, for which Washington has accused Damascus of at least indirect responsibility, has intensified anti-Syrian feelings and changed the political landscape in the country.

As many as 250,000 rallied in the streets of Beirut as Assad and Lahoud met on Monday.


Subject: French News

0 Comments To This Article