Lebanese voters cast their ballots in the third round of parliamentary elections. The final round is scheduled for June 19th. This is the first election in nearly thirty years to take place in Lebanon without the presence of Syrian troops, which had occupied the country since 1976. But United Nations Security Council Resolution fifteen-fifty-nine also requires the Syrian government to withdraw its intelligence agents from Lebanon.
U-N Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he is concerned about the continued presence of Syrian intelligence officers in Lebanon:
"We are now receiving reports that there may be elements that are still there and we are considering the possible return of the verification team to ascertain what's going on."
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says, "Syria's long presence inside Lebanon has created an environment of intimidation":
"We want to see the elections that are now ongoing in Lebanon occur in a free and fair manner, without any outside interference or intimidation.... I think it's the shared view of the world that in the wake of passage of resolution fifteen-fifty-nine, it is not business as usual in Lebanon."
In January, former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al Hariri, a real opponent of Syria's occupation, was assassinated. Protests following the assassination forced Syria to withdraw its remaining fifteen-thousand troops. The situation in Lebanon, says State Department spokesman McCormack, "has changed":
"The Lebanese people now have the opportunity to take control and define their own future, free of outside interference. And I would just add that the eyes of the world are on Lebanon, that countries around the world, members of the Security Council, are watching what happens in Lebanon, and we are listening to the Lebanese people."
The Syrian government, says State Department spokesman McCormack, understands "quite clearly what they need to do."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.