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Syria Should Leave Lebanon Now

According to news reports, eight thousand to ten thousand Syrian troops are now in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, and four thousand to six thousand have returned to Syria. United Nations Security Council Resolution Fifteen-Fifty-Nine calls for the withdrawal of all foreign military forces and intelligence personnel from Lebanon.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has said that Syrian forces will withdraw from Lebanon, but he has not given a timetable. U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli says that while there is "a lot of movement" of Syrian forces, they have not all left Lebanon:

"[U-N resolution] Fifteen-Fifty-Nine calls for all Syrian troops to be out of Lebanon. Until now, we have not heard a clear and unequivocal commitment from the government of Syria to do that. We've seen movements, some from within Lebanon to Syria, some from within parts of Lebanon to other parts of Lebanon, all of which, I guess, are a change from previous circumstances, but it's still not what Fifteen-Fifty-Nine calls for. So let's be clear: what we're looking for is, again, all Syrian troops and intelligence operatives out of Lebanon and back in Syria, and in a way that allows for elections to take place in May untainted by foreign interference and [the] presence of foreign troops in Lebanon."

On March 14, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese demonstrated in Beirut to demand that Syrian forces leave their country. President George W. Bush says that the United States supports the Lebanese people in that goal:

"Our policy is this: we want there to be a thriving democracy in Lebanon. We believe that there will be a thriving democracy, but only if - but only if - Syria withdraws not only her troops completely out of Lebanon, but also her...intelligence organizations. I am concerned, and the world should be concerned that the intelligence organizations are embedded in a lot of government functions in Lebanon, and there needs to be a complete withdrawal of those services in order for there to be a free election."

Mr. Bush says that the United States looks forward to working with the elected leaders of a Lebanon free of foreign domination.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.