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Syrian forces have verifiably been withdrawn from Lebanon, Annan says

Syrian forces have verifiably been withdrawn from Lebanon, Annan says

A United Nations mission has verified that Syrian troops and security forces have fully withdrawn from Lebanon, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.

He said he had given the report of the verification mission to the President of the Security Council. "They do have positive reports. The report is short and to the point and, indeed, lots of progress has been made. I think the UN should be proud about it," he told reporters following the Council's monthly luncheon.

In 2000 the UN worked with Lebanon and Israel, he recalled. Israeli troops withdrew then, he said, "and today it is the Syrian troops which have been withdrawn. And so, in principle, Lebanon should be free of all foreign forces today."

On the question of a small area of Lebanon or Syria called Dar el Achaer, he said, "We have verified all the withdrawals, including the border area. But as I said, there was a question of who has that territory."

The border has not been fully demarcated and there are conflicting claims as to whether that territory is in Lebanon or Syria, Mr. Annan said.

The Syrian withdrawal was mandated by Security Council resolution 1559.

The team was composed of Brigadier General Elhadji Mouhamadou Kandji of Senegal, the Deputy Military Adviser in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), Colonel Ian Sinclair of the United Kingdom, Chief of Staff of the UN peacekeeping mission in Cyprus, and Commander Kari Olavi Makinen of Finland, from the DPKO Missions Operations Service.