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Security Council isolates Syria

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    First Security Council resolution directed against an Arab state isolates Syria. UN pressures Lebanon by Jim Bencivenga
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 5, 2004
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      First Security Council resolution directed against an Arab state
      isolates Syria.


      UN pressures Lebanon
      by Jim Bencivenga
      http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0903/dailyUpdate.html


      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
      throughout 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
      Hezbollah.'

      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
      vote.

      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
      in parliament.

      The UN vote "cannot be justified as part of the role given to the
      Security Council," the BBC quotes Philippines Ambassador Lauro Baja as
      saying.

      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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