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Lebanon, Syria Criticize UN Draft Resolution  - 2004-09-02

The Lebanese parliament is set to vote Friday on a constitutional amendment to allow Syrian-backed President Emile Lahoud to stay in power for another three years. But the U.N. Security Council will vote on a resolution demanding Lebanon's sovereignty be respected by Syria, which has dominated Lebanon politics since intervening during Lebanon's civil war in 1976.

Among other things, the U.N. resolution tells Syria to stop interfering in Lebanon's presidential election. It also calls for the rapid withdrawal of some 15,000 Syrian troops currently in Lebanon.

But according to the chief strategic analyst at Syria's Strategic Studies Center in Damascus, Imad Fawzi Shouebi, the Syrian government views the U.N. resolution as foreign interference in Lebanon. And, he says Lebanon has the legal right to amend its own constitution.

"First of all, the resolution is trying to say about respect of the sovereignty of Lebanon while they make violation to the sovereignty by this resolution. Secondly, this resolution is talking about election for the president while the constitution of Lebanon allows to make any modification. That means that the modification of this constitution is constitutional," he said. Mr. Shouebi notes that the resolution also calls for the disbanding of militias in Lebanon, including Hezbollah. But, he says if Syrian troops are withdrawn from Lebanon, Damascus will not be able to help achieve that goal.

Both Syria and Lebanon have filed official protests against the resolution. But, the head of the political science department at Lebanese-American University in Beirut, Sami Baroudi, says while there is strong public opposition to amending Lebanon's constitution, he says most Lebanese see the U.N. resolution as being meaningless.

"I do not think people are expecting this resolution to have any teeth," he said. "So, that is the overall feeling that, you know, it will just be a statement from the council. There are no sanctions attached, it is not under Chapter 6, so it will just be basically a statement indicating displeasure with the existing situation. So, I do not think people really are expecting things to change in Lebanon as a result of that resolution."

While acknowledging the resolution is not binding on Lebanon, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth, said late Wednesday that it was important for the international community to condemn Syria's interference in Lebanese internal affairs.

Despite the resolution it is widely believed the Lebanese parliament will amend the constitution, paving the way for a presidential re-election bid by Emile Lahoud.