Lebanese opposition says it wants Syria out at rare meeting (AFP-FRANCE PRESSE) BEIRUT, Lebanon 02/01/05 3:45 PM ET)
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BEIRUT (AFP) - Lebanon´s opposition laid out its demands for the
future of relations with Syria during a highly unusual meeting with
an envoy from Damascus.
The opposition figures told Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Walid
Muwallem, whose country dominates Lebanon, they wanted to see a
dramatic and swift reduction of Damascus´ influence over the country
and a withdrawal of its troops.
"The solution is for Syria to lift its control of Lebanon, which
must now recover its sovereignty and independence," said opposition
deputy Nassib Lahoud after a meeting with Muawllem.
"This is the central objective. Any other way will prolong the
crisis," said Lahoud. "There must be a complete Syrian withdrawal
from Lebanon within a short timescale," he added
Muwallem´s meetings with anti-Syrian figures during his two-day
visit mark a new departure for Damascus and come amid increasing
pressure on Syria from the United States to reduce its presence in
The United Nations Security Council in September passed a resolution
demanding that the Lebanese government exercise its sovereignty
throughout its territory and disarm militia groups, including
Hezbollah, as well send home foreign troops.
After a series of partial withdrawals, some 14,000 Syrian troops are
still deployed in Lebanon, but this is less than half the number
stationed in the country since 1976.
Lahoud said the opposition wanted Damascus to dismantle its joint
security services in Lebanon before spring elections and treat the
country as an "independent state".
After the elections, a Lebanese government of national unity should
set out a timetable for Syria´s complete withdrawal from Lebanon, he
Muwallem, a respected diplomat who was Syrian ambassador to
Washington, has spoken of the need for an "evolution" in relations
and acknowledged "erroneous practices" between the two countries.
(Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse. 02/01/05)
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