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US Skeptical About Syrian Withdrawal Pledge


The Bush administration says it is skeptical of Syria's pledge to redeploy troops stationed in Lebanon.

White House adviser Dan Bartlett says, when it comes to Syrian promises, actions speak louder than words. Speaking on CNN's Late Edition program, Mr. Bartlett questioned the sincerity of Syria's pledge. "It seems to be more generalities and half-measures, rather than living up to the international community's demands. In 1559, the UN Security Council resolution, it calls for an immediate withdrawal - not only of troops, but also Syrian secret services and intelligence officials that really keep the clamp of fear on the Lebanese people, to fully withdraw as well," he said.

Saturday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad promised to pull 14,000 troops stationed in Lebanon back to the Syrian border. U.S. officials note that no timetable for the withdrawal was announced, and no specific assurance given that no Syrian military personnel or other operatives would remain on Lebanese soil.

But others in the Middle East are striking a more hopeful tone. Also speaking on CNN, Saudi Arabian foreign policy advisor Adel al-Jubeir indicated he is willing to give Syria the benefit of the doubt. "I believe that at the end of the day it is inevitable that the Syrian government will comply with the U.N. Security Council resolution - their president has said so," he said.

Jordan's ambassador in Washington, Karim Kawar, said that Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon should proceed in a deliberate and orderly fashion to achieve the best-possible outcome. "One that ensures a stable Lebanon - certainly we do not want to see any upheaval - but one that also ensures free and fair elections [in Lebanon]," he said.

But Israel's ambassador to the United States, Daniel Ayalon, says a Syrian troop withdrawal, by itself, is not enough. "For the Lebanese government to regain sovereignty over all its borders, the Hezbollah, which is a major and very dangerous terror organization, needs to be dismantled. Also, there is an element of Iran's presence - revolutionary guards in the Bekaa [Valley] - which also have to go," he said.

More details about a timetable for Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon are expected after this week's planned visit to Damascus by a United Nations envoy [Terje Roed-Larsen].

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