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New UN envoy in Syria to seek withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon

New UN envoy in Syria to seek withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon

Terje Roed-Larsen
Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s newly appointed envoy on the withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon met over the weekend in Damascus with senior officials of Syria, which has 14,000 troops on its smaller neighbour’s soil.

Terje Roed-Larsen, until last month the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, conferred with Foreign Minister Farouk al Shara and Deputy Foreign Minister Wald Muallen, and was now on his way to Beirut for talks with senior Lebanese officials on his first visit in his new capacity, a UN spokesman said in New York.

While in Beirut, Mr. Roed-Larsen is expected to meet with President Emile Lahoud, Prime Minister Omar Kamari and the Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri.

His mission stems from Security Council resolution 1559, adopted in September ahead of elections in Lebanon, which supported polling free from outside influence and called for the withdrawal of all remaining foreign forces, the disbanding of all militias and the extension of Government control over the entire country.

In an initial report in October, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that aside from a UN peacekeeping force, the only significant foreign forces in Lebanon were Syrian. He said Syria indicated it had some 14,000 troops still inside Lebanon stationed near the border, and that it had redeployed about 3,000 other forces.

He reported that both governments said the timing of further withdrawals would be determined by the security situation in Lebanon and the region and they could not provide a schedule for such action.