The United States and France have issued a joint statement supporting the Lebanese people "in their pursuit of an independent, democratic, and sovereign Lebanon, free of outside interference and intimidation." The U.S. and France also called on Syria to abide by United Nations Security Council Resolution fifteen-fifty-nine and withdraw some fifteen-thousand troops and intelligence personnel from Lebanon.
The U.S., France, and many other nations are calling for full support of a U-N probe into the murder of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. Mr. Hariri left office in October after disputing the Syrian occupation. The U.S. and France believe Syria’s continued meddling in Lebanese affairs created the unstable situation which led to Mr. Hariri’s murder.
In what is being described by some as the Cedar Revolution -- a reference to the cedar tree on the Lebanese flag – thousands of Lebanese demonstrated in favor of a Syrian withdrawal. One result is that the pro-Syrian government of Prime Minister Omar Karami resigned.
Walid Jumblatt is a leader of the Druze Muslim community in Lebanon. He told a reporter, "It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq," says Mr. Jumblatt. "But when I saw the Iraqi people voting. . . .eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world."
The Lebanese people will be voting for a new parliament in April and May. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that Syria needs to leave Lebanon and let the elections proceed free from all foreign influence:
"The Syrians are out of step with where the region is going and out of step with the aspirations of the people of the Middle East."
"The Lebanese people are beginning to express their aspirations for democracy," says Ms. Rice. They deserve the opportunity to chart their own course through free and fair parliamentary elections. President George W. Bush says that in Lebanon and elsewhere, "When given a choice, people everywhere, from all walks of life, from all religions, prefer freedom to violence and terror."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.