Lebanese-Syrian meetings reach full withdrawal accord

Monday, April 4, 2005

United Nations envoy Terje Roed-Larsen and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara announced Sunday at a joint news conference that Syria will withdraw all troops and foreign intelligence agents by the April 30 deadline. The withdrawal would precede the upcoming national elections scheduled for May, and would end 25 years of Syrian military occupation in Lebanon.

The news conference came after meetings in Damascus between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Lebanese army chief General Michel Suleiman that dealt with the withdrawal timetable. Roed-Larson said, "Syria has agreed that subject to the acceptance of the Lebanese authorities, a U.N. verification team will be dispatched to verify the [full withdrawal]."

The removal of Syrian military presence in Lebanon is a main sticking point of the anti-Syrian, or opposition group, objections towards forming a new government. After a February bombing assassination of the previous Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was also anti-Syrian, he was succeeded by Omar Karami. Massive opposition group street protests forced the pro-Syrian Karami to resign, but a week later he was re-installed by President al-Assad to spear-head the new government's formation.

Mr. Karami has been unable to secure opposition group support for forming a new government. The Lebanese Parliament must act soon to form consensus in announcing new elections, or its legal mandate to do so will expire.