Saniora Says He Asked Bush to Urge Israel to Pull Out of Shabaa
- From: "RS" <a0030516@xxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 20 Apr 2006 10:26:01 +0200
Prime Minister Fouad Saniora has said from Washington that he has asked
President George Bush to urge Israel to withdraw from Lebanese territory it
still occupies, in a reference to the disputed Shabaa Farms.
The premier also said that although Syria has pulled out its troops from
Lebanon, its intelligence services remain in the country.
"No one can determine the number but we know that there are intelligence
elements still in Lebanon. They are taking advantage of the free atmosphere
that prevails in the country to carry out their mission," Saniora said on
Bloomberg TV. His remarks were printed in As Safir newspaper Thursday.
Saniora, who held talks with President George Bush Tuesday, said he asked
the U.S. leader to press Israel to withdraw from Shabaa.
"I asked President Bush to intervene with Israel to ensure its withdrawal
from these territories," Saniora told CNN in an interview published in An
Bush made no reference to this Lebanese demand after his meeting with
Saniora. He declared his support for the Lebanese people's desire for
freedom and for a government that can live up to their expectations.
One of Washington's major concerns is Hizbullah, the Lebanese armed group
that it considers a "terrorist organization." The U.S. is pressing for the
disarmament of the party in compliance with U.N. Security Council 1559 that
calls on all armed groups in Lebanon to lay down their weapons.
"Hizbullah is represented in parliament and cabinet. We cannot describe
Hizbullah as a group of fighters as it has (political) weight and we have to
take that into consideration," Saniora said.
Saniora said the disarmament of Hizbullah, the next issue to be discussed at
national dialogue talks in Beirut, can be achieved when a number of steps
involving regional players Syria and Israel are taken.
Once the Lebanese identity of the Shabaa Farms is confirmed with Syria's
cooperation, then Israel would have to pull out of the region in abidance
with U.N. Security Council 425 that calls on the Jewish State to pull out of
all Lebanese territory it occupies.
Lebanon would then devise a strategy to defend its land.
"After solving all these issues, the Lebanese government will alone have
complete sovereignty over all of Lebanon and there will be no arms except
those in the hands of Lebanese authorities," he said.
The premier, who is to meet with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on
Friday, said he will discuss with the U.N. chief the steps that need to be
taken to formalize the Lebanese identity of the Shabaa Farms.
The mountainous region is on the border between Lebanon, Syria and Israel.
The Jewish State has been occupying it since it seized the Syrian Golan
Heights in 1967.
After Israel withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000 ending 22 years of
occupation, the U.N. cartographers declared Shabaa as part of Syria. Beirut
and Damascus say it is Lebanese.
The participants in the national dialogue have agreed on the necessity to
demarcate the border with Syria, establish diplomatic relations with their
neighbor and reach a written agreement on the status of Shabaa.
Syria, that enjoyed military and political supremacy over its small neighbor
until its withdrawal last April, has been reluctant to cooperate on any of
Relations between the two countries reached their lowest after the Feb. 14
2005 assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri that was blamed on
Saniora, one of Hariri's closest aides, refused to speculate about the
possible involvement of Syrian officials in Hariri's murder.
"I don't want to rush and make accusations that are not based on facts. We
should wait for the results of the investigation," he said.
Lebanese media reports said that chief U.N. investigator Serge Brammertz who
is conducting an inquiry into the murder of Hariri and 22 others is to due
to meet Friday with Assad and his vice president Farouk al Sharaa.
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