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UN envoy on Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon leaves tonight for new talks

UN envoy on Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon leaves tonight for new talks

Terje Roed-Larsen
The United Nations envoy seeking the withdrawal of thousands of Syrian troops from Lebanon is set to leave for the region tonight with personal messages from Secretary-General Kofi Annan to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and Lebanese President Emile Lahoud.

Terje Roed-Larsen, Mr. Annan's Special Envoy for implementation of Security Council resolution 1559, which calls for withdrawing all foreign forces from Lebanon, disbanding all militias and extending Government control over the whole country, will also visit Egypt and Jordan during his one-week trip to finalize the report the Secretary-General is to deliver to the Council on 19 April.

Mr. Annan has said he expects full withdrawal of all Syrian troops, including the intelligence apparatus and military assets, before Lebanese parliamentary elections scheduled for between mid-April and mid-May.

Syria has already withdrawn thousands of the 14,000 troops it had in its smaller neighbour and relocated others to the Bekaa valley in eastern Lebanon.

Mr. Roed-Larsen's trip is the third in the new job he assumed in January after serving as UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. Since his first trip in early February tensions have risen in Lebanon following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.