Syria has informed the United Nations that it has withdrawn all of its forces from Lebanon, ending a nearly twenty-nine-year occupation. A three-member U.N. team has traveled to Lebanon to verify the Syrian claim.
U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli says the withdrawal of Syrian troops is an important first step toward Syria's compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolution Fifteen Fifty-Nine. That resolution requires Syria to withdraw all of its troops as well as all of its intelligence assets from Lebanon. But Mr. Ereli says it is not certain that Syria has withdrawn all of its intelligence agents:
"It certainly at this point looks, in terms of the military, Syria's military forces, that they are gone from Lebanon. But we would stress in considering this issue that it's not just military forces, it's also intelligence forces. I think there are some lingering concerns that not all Syrian intelligence assets are out of Lebanon and it's important that they do leave Lebanon and Lebanese territory fully and completely in order to be in compliance with [U.N. Resolution] Fifteen Fifty-Nine. So we'll be. . . .looking forward to the [United Nations] verification team's report on that issue after they've been able to meet with officials and survey the landscape."
News organizations report that Syria has not withdrawn a significant part of its intelligence operation from Lebanon. According to the Washington Post newspaper, the United Nations has been told that Syrian military intelligence has taken up new positions "in the south of Beirut and elsewhere, and has been using headquarters of parties affiliated with the government of Syria as well as privately rented apartments for their purposes." The newspaper reports that Syrian intelligence agents are also deployed in Palestinian refugee camps and communities, some of which have suddenly grown larger.
President George W. Bush says the United States and other countries expect Syrian troops and intelligence agents to be “completely out” of Lebanon before that country holds its parliamentary elections, expected in late May.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.