09/03/2004, 00.00
ONU – LEBANON – SYRIA

UN resolution calls for immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon

New York (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The UN Security Council narrowly approved a U.S.-French resolution late Thursday aimed for an immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces - an indirect reference to 17.000 Syrian troops stationed in Lebanon.

The resolution also aimed at putting pressure on Lebanon to reject a second term for its pro-Syrian president, Emile Lahoud. The resolution was adopted with the minimum nine "yes" vote, with the remain six council members abstaining. The draft UN resolution calls for "strict respect of Lebanon's sovereignty" and notifies the council's support for "a free and fair electoral process in Lebanon's upcoming presidential election conducted according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence".

The Lebanese Constitution now bans a president from serving two consecutive terms but the Lebanese legislature was expected to remove the restriction, with many seeing the move as a direct response to Syria's wishes. Lebanese news media estimate Lahoud's support to be around 90-105 legislators in the 128-seat body, with 85 votes required to amend the charter.

Syria's involvement in Lebanon dates back to 1976, when it sent in troops to help quell a year-old civil war that lasted for 14 more years. Lebanon's government has repeatedly said the presence of the Syrian army has been a stabilizing factor since the war ended in 1990.

Europe and USA have tolerated Syria's control and even credited it with securing stability, but since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Bush administration has repeatedly accused Syria of sponsoring terrorism. 

The resolution aims to head off a move in Lebanon's parliament to amend the constitution and extend Emile Lahoud's current six-year term by another three after it ends in November.

The Lebanese parliament is expected to vote on the amendment today.

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