Security Council isolates Syria
- First Security Council resolution directed against an Arab state
UN pressures Lebanon
by Jim Bencivenga
A United States-French resolution telling Syria to withdraw its forces
from Lebanon and warning against foreign interference in Beirut's
presidential election passed the UN Security Council on Thursday,
reports the BBC.
The Security Council voted 9-0 to adopt the resolution. To get the
necessary nine votes, the minimum number needed, the US and France
agreed "under pressure not to mention Syria by name, although it is
the only country with foreign forces in Lebanon," reports Reuters.
But despitte international concerns Lebanon's parliament approved a
constitutional amendment Friday afternoon that will extend by three
years the term of its Syrian-backed president, Emile Lahoud, reports
Voice of America. The vote comes despite international concerns about
Syrian influence in Lebanese politics
The UN had called for "the strict respect of the sovereignty,
territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Lebanon
under the sole and exclusive authority of the government of Lebanon
The Israeli paper Haaretz notes that this is the first Security
Council resolution clearly directed against an Arab state.
'While Hezbollah is not mentioned by name, the resolution calls for
the disbanding and disarming of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese
militias. Diplomats and analysts said this is a direct allusion to
Most abstaining council members said they agreed with Lebanon, and
thus Syria, that the Security Council measure directly interferred in
the internal affairs of Lebanon and "would not contribute to a Middle
East peace," reports Haaretz.
Angola, Benin, Britain, Chile, Germany, Romania, and Spain joined the
US and France in voting in favor of the measure. Brazil, the
Philippines, Russia, Pakistan, Algeria, and China abstained from the
Efforts by Syria to have the Lebanese parliament pass a constitutional
amendment to extend President Emile Lahoud's term by three years
sparked the resolution. The presidency is currently a single six-year
term. Election of a president is determined by a two-thirds majority
The UN vote "cannot be justified as part of the role given to the
Security Council," the BBC quotes Philippines Ambassador Lauro Baja as
The central issue is Lebanese sovereignty writes Washington Post
columnist Nora Boustany.
As president, Lahoud has shown little independent political
initiative, rubber-stamping Syria's foreign policy dictates and
infringements on Lebanon's sovereignty. The policies include keeping
the Iran-backed Islamic Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon fully
armed rather than deploying Lebanese troops along the border with
Israel, as required by the Taif accord. That agreement, hammered out
in the summer of 1989 and brokered by Saudi Arabia and the United
States, ended Lebanon's civil war.
The resolution also calls for the "disbanding of all militias, which
it said were compromising Lebanon's ability to govern itself," reports
The New York Times.
Combined UN intervention and mounting domestic opposition has turned
the debate over the presidential extension into the "most serious
crisis in Lebanese-Syrian relations since the end of Lebanon's
1975-1990 civil war," reports The Christian Science Monitor.
"This is the greatest miscalculation Syria has made in recent years,"
Farid Khazen, professor of politics at the American University of
Beirut, told the Monitor. "The Syrians thought they could get away
with imposing their man on Lebanon, but they failed to realize that
the world has changed."
For its part, Syrians appear to be following a simple rule - a high
degree of discomfort with change:
'It is our choice that the president remain because the situation in
the region is unstable and change at this time is not beneficial,'
says Qassem Qanso, a minister of state, the head of the Lebanese
branch of the Baath Party, and one of Syria's closest allies.
Damascus argues that its troop presence in Lebanon is a stabilizing
influence, reports the BBC. Syria's involvement in Lebanon dates back
to 1976, when it sent troops into Lebanon to try to end civil war. The
conflict continued for another 14 years.
But the troops have remained and "Damascus' military and political
influence in Lebanon remains strong," reports the BBC. Israel pulled
all of its troops out of Lebanon in 2000. Syria has 17,000 troops in
Lebanon and is believed to be the main backer of Hezbollah.
Citing Lebanese analysts the Monitor reports that the prospect of
another three years of political and economic paralysis spells
disaster for the country.
'We've had no political life and economic life has been blocked,' says
Michael Young, a Lebanese political commentator. 'And all the Syrians
can do is perpetuate this.'
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