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10/25/04 - U-N ON SYRIAN TROOPS IN LEBANON - 2004-10-26

A statement by the United Nations Security Council president endorsed by all fifteen council members calls on Syria to withdraw its military forces from Lebanon. Syrian troops have been stationed in Lebanon for nearly three decades. They currently number more than fifteen-thousand.

The U-N Security Council earlier adopted Resolution 1559, co-sponsored by the U.S. and France, calling for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon and for the disarming and disbanding of all militias there. The resolution also demanded that all foreign influence over Lebanon's political affairs cease and that the Lebanese armed forces extend their control throughout their territory.

This month, U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan reported that the requirements of Resolution 1559 have not been met. He said that Syrian forces remain in Lebanon, Hezbollah remains armed and in control of southern Lebanon, and the Lebanese have not been allowed by Syria to exercise their political independence and sovereignty.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says the U-N Security Council presidential statement "represents a step forward in terms of the kind of scrutiny that Syria's attitude towards Lebanon. . .will get":

"The goals of Resolution 1559 have not been met. That's very clear to all of us. The council's statement was unanimous and urges all the parties to implement fully the provisions, and that includes that Syria cease its interference, disarm the militias, and withdraw its forces from Lebanon."

Anne Patterson, Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the U-N, says that U-N Security Council members, as well as U-N Secretary General Annan, will be monitoring the situation in Lebanon "very carefully over the next months":

"We are hopeful that Syria will take a message from this resolution and from the unanimous, and I stress unanimous, decision of the Security Council."

Clearly, it is long past time for Syria to remove its troops from Lebanon and for the Lebanese people to reassert control over their own territory, their own government, and their own future.