U.S. Says Syria Troop Withdrawal Plans Are Not Enough
The U.S. State Department said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s announcement today of a gradual withdrawal of 14,000 troops from Lebanon, ending the country’s 29- year military occupation, “is not enough.” “The international community has made it clear Syria must withdraw completely and immediately all its military forces and intelligence service forces from Lebanon,” State Department spokeswoman Darla Jordan said. “We mean complete withdrawal and no half-hearted measures.”
Assad said he would meet this week with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud to discuss the withdrawal plans. Syria faced increasing pressure to withdraw troops from neighboring Lebanon after the Feb. 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The incident set off anti-Syrian protests in Lebanon that led the pro-Syrian government of Prime Minister Omar Karame to resign.
The UN, U.S., France and other countries are insisting that Syria comply with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, approved by 9-0 in September, calling for Syrian forces to leave Lebanon. Bush said in a radio address today that a complete withdrawal of troops was required to clear the way for elections in Lebanon. “The troops will fully retreat to the Bekaa Valley and then move on to the common border,” Assad said in a speech to parliament broadcast by Arab television stations such as Al- Jazeera, based in Qatar. He gave no timetable.
The rapidity at which this is developing is stunning, especially since the international community has seemed rather unconcerned about this issue for the past twenty years.