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Syrians Say Lebanese Would Be at War Without Them

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=7647556 Syrians Say Lebanese Would Be at War Without Them Wed Feb 16, 2005 08:38 AM ET By Inal
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 16 12:18 PM
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      http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=7647556

      Syrians Say Lebanese Would Be at War Without Them
      Wed Feb 16, 2005 08:38 AM ET

      By Inal Ersan

      DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syrians said the Lebanese, who
      chanted anti-Syrian protests at the funeral of their
      murdered former prime minister on Wednesday, would
      tear each other apart if Syrian troops left.

      "If they feel this way, then I say we should withdraw
      and let them break each other like falling water
      melons," said a student in Damascus who gave his name
      as Amjad.

      Syria became a dominant player in Lebanon during the
      1975-1990 civil war and took much of the credit for
      quelling the violence that set Lebanese religious and
      political factions at each other's throats. It still
      has 14,000 troops in Lebanon.

      Syrians said they were not much bothered by Washington
      recalling its ambassador from Damascus in reaction to
      Monday's assassination of former prime minister Rafik
      al-Hariri.

      But many voiced dismay at Lebanese opposition charges
      that their country was behind the car bomb blast that
      killed him. Syria has condemned the assassination and
      denied responsibility.

      Once a Syrian ally, the Sunni Muslim billionaire
      joined opposition calls for the withdrawal of Syrian
      troops from Lebanon after he resigned as prime
      minister in October.

      "Am I supposed to expect that the Americans will not
      use this opportunity and any opportunity to harm
      Syria?" Samer Abdel-Karim, a civil servant, said of
      the recall for consultations of U.S. ambassador
      Margaret Scobey.

      "Do you think I care if they ban Cadillacs? I don't
      have a car and if I had the money I would buy a
      Japanese one," said Abdel-Karim, referring to U.S.
      sanctions imposed on Syria last year for supporting
      what Washington calls terrorist groups.

      The Bush administration has not accused Syria of
      killing Hariri, but has said the Syrian military and
      political presence in Lebanon is a destabilizing force
      and must end.

      "What I find strange is not what the Americans do or
      did, what I find strange is the accusations by the
      Lebanese, Arab Lebanese," said Abdel-Karim, whose
      pained words echoed a common Syrian reaction to the
      outspoken charges leveled by Lebanese opposition
      politicians after Hariri's assassination.

      U.S. officials said they were considering new
      sanctions on Syria, under pressure for months over
      U.S. accusations that it lets Palestinian and Iraqi
      militants operate on its soil.

      Syria denies that it backs terrorism and says its
      troops, in Lebanon since a 1976 civil war
      intervention, remain there at the Beirut government's
      request.

      A U.N. Security Council resolution adopted in
      September demands that foreign troops leave, a stance
      Syrian officials often criticize as intervention in
      Lebanese affairs.

      "There is a feeling that they want to turn anything
      into a pretext," said analyst Ahmad Samir al-Taqi of
      the latest U.S. move. "The recalling of the ambassador
      is a form of escalation in the direction of resolution
      1559," he added.

      Lebanese opposition figures such as Druze politician
      Walid Jumblat and exiled Christian general Michel Aoun
      were quick to point the finger at Damascus after
      Hariri's killing, provoking anger in Syria.

      "They are shameless, absolutely shameless," raged Um
      Said, an elderly woman shopper waving a lettuce.

      "Now we are no good? Now Syrians are their enemy?
      Don't they remember our sons who ran to help them?"
      she asked.
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