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Annan Considering Mission to Lebanon to Check On Syria


Secretary-General Kofi Annan is considering sending a U.N. team back to Lebanon to check reports that Syrian intelligence agents are still operating there.

Mr. Annan told reporters Thursday he may order a U.N. verification team to return to Lebanon in light of fresh word of Syrian activity in the country. "As you know they did go to Lebanon and Syria and they've submitted a report to the Security Council. We are now receiving reports that there may be elements that are still there and we are considering the possible return of the verification team to ascertain what's going on," he said.

The U.N. team first went to Lebanon in May to verify Syria's compliance with Security Council resolution 1559. That measure, passed last September, demands a complete withdrawal of all Syrian military and intelligence assets from Lebanese territory.

Syria declared the withdrawal complete in late April. The verification team confirmed that all Syrian troops had been removed, but said it could not be sure all intelligence agents had left the country.

Amid U.S. and other reports of continuing Syrian activity, Secretary-General Annan this week dispatched his special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen to Damascus for urgent consultations with President Bashar al-Assad. He said the meeting is to take place Sunday. "Yes, he's going to see President Assad with a message from me and also have discussions with him on developments on the ground and will report back to me next week," he said.

Mr. Annan said he would not disclose the contents of his message to President Assad until it had been delivered.

A separate U.N. mission is currently in Lebanon investigating last February's assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. That mission, led by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, arrived in the country last week, and is being assisted by teams of experts from France and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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