No timetable in UN resolution on Syrian pullout, says Annan
* UN envoy will discuss full withdrawal with Syria and Lebanon
* Syrian envoy sees complete pullout by May
UNITED NATIONS: Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Tuesday the UN resolution demanding Syrian troops leave Lebanon did not give a timetable for withdrawal, as President George W Bush has demanded.
Annan said his envoy, Norwegian Terje Roed-Larsen would arrive in Lebanon and Syria this week to report to the UN Security Council on the implementation of resolution 1559, adopted on Sept. 2, which called for foreign troops to leave Lebanon.
Bush has demanded Syria pull troops out of Lebanon before Lebanese parliamentary elections in May. “The resolution requires them to withdraw,” Annan told reporters. “I cannot get into the date you are asking me to set.”
“The resolution is clear that there should be full withdrawal,” Annan said before embarking on a trip to Madrid and then to Israel and the West Bank.
“I am sending my envoy there to sit with them and discuss full and complete withdrawal,” he added. Adopted at the initiative of France and the United States, the resolution also called for the Lebanese government to extend control over all its territory, a reference to Hizbollah guerrillas who run the south.
Annan said the Lebanese government, had to undertake any disarmament of Hizbollah, not the United Nations, which has 2,000 peacekeepers in southern Lebanon.
But he said one needed to recognize that Hizbollah was a force in Lebanese society “one will have to factor in as we implement the resolution.” On Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of flag-waving Lebanese flooded central Beirut for a pro-Syrian rally called by Hizbollah, Lebanon’s last armed militia that is backed by Syria and Iran and called a terrorist group by Washington. It dwarfed previous protests demanding Syrian troops leave Lebanon.
Annan also said no one had discussed with him expanding the UN peacekeeping force in the south to monitor Syria’s withdrawal, as suggested by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw last week.
“That is an issue the Security Council will have to decide, whether they want to send in an international force or not,” he said. “But I have no such mandate.”
Syrian envoy: Syria’s ambassador to the United States suggested on Tuesday Syria will complete the withdrawal of its troops from Lebanon before the Lebanese hold parliamentary elections in May. “They are actually being withdrawn today. We will do this as soon as possible, even a long time before May,” the ambassador, Imad Moustapha, told CNN.
Syria is under strong pressure from President George W Bush and other world leaders to withdraw 14,000 troops from Lebanon as well as intelligence personnel.
Asked if all Syrian troops and intelligence personnel will be out of all of Lebanon by May, Moustapha said: “Yes.” “Let me first thank President Bush for his concern about Lebanon and the fair and free elections that will happen in May, and now President Bush can focus his attention on the really terrible occupation of the Palestinian territories and the occupation of Syrian territory and Lebanese territory by Israel, because we are withdrawing our troops,” he said. reuters