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December 12, 2004

Is Syria pulling out of Lebanon?

If true, this is another example of good news out of the middle east. (For those of you who have not been paying attention, there are more Arab elections where the outcome has not been pre-determined scheduled to happen in the next month than have happened in the past twenty years.) According to the Israeli newspaper Maariv International, plans are being finalized for a total Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon:

Damascus and Beirut have begun discreet negotiation over a full scale Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, in accordance with UN resolutions.

Western intelligence sources report that the Syrian and Lebanese general staffs have begun putting a plan together for the withdrawal of all 13,000 Syrian troops from Lebanon within six months.

Last month, after the US and France threatened UN sanctions over the matter, Syrian foreign minister Farouk a’ Shara informed his US counterpart Colin Powell of Damascus’s willingness to leave Lebanon. Initially Syria tried to negotiate an agreement which would allow it to keep 3,00 troops in Lebanon, to operate and guard its four radar stations at Mt. Barukh and Mt. Sanin in central Lebanon, one at the Dahar al Baidar key point commanding the Beirut-Damascus highway and the fourth at Bsharri in the north.

However after it became clear that the US was not in a mood to give Damascus any freebies, President Assad agreed to a total withdrawal from Lebanon.

Both the US and France have made it clear to Damascus, via UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen that they will not tolerate in Syrian meddling by proxy in Lebanese affairs. In a recent three hour meeting with Assad, Larsen told Assad that the for both the US and France, a clean and free election in Lebanon was a sine qua non, and that any attempt by Syria to subvert the electoral process in any way, via gerrymandering or coercion would bring the wrath of Washington and Paris on his head.

December 12, 2004 at 03:11 AM | Permalink


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