Accessibility links

Breaking News

Bush Applauds Saudi Arabia's Call for Syria to Leave Lebanon

President Bush says Syria must completely withdraw its troops and intelligence personnel from Lebanon. The president also applauded Saudi Arabia's call for Syria to end its military and political presence in Lebanon.

President Bush welcomed Saudi Arabia's call for a complete withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, as already demanded by Europe, Egypt and the United States.

"Lebanon is a democracy,” he said. “Lebanon is a democracy, and we strongly support that democracy. I was pleased that Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia sent the very same message. The world is beginning to speak with one voice. We want that democracy in Lebanon to succeed, and we know it cannot succeed, so long as she is occupied by a foreign power. And that power is Syria."

On Thursday, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad traveled to the Saudi capital hoping to secure Saudi support before a summit meeting of the Arab League.

But Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah told President Assad to withdraw Syrian troops from Lebanon and end the country's international isolation. Saudi Arabia became the second Arab country after Egypt to call for Syria's complete withdrawal from Lebanon.

Syria has some 14,000 military and intelligence personnel in Lebanon. Pressure for their withdrawal has grown since the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister, which sparked anti-Syrian protests and led to the fall of the pro-Syrian government in Beirut.

Syria insists its troops are necessary to maintain stability in Lebanon, which suffered through a 15-year civil war. Damascus has said it will consider a partial withdrawal, but President Bush said this would be unacceptable.

"There are no half measures involved,” Mr. Bush added. “When the United States and France and others say withdrawal, we mean complete withdrawal - no half-hearted measures."

Mr. Bush spoke before a crowd in the state of New Jersey, where many victims of the 2001 World Trade Center attacks lived. The president said the long-term solution to defeating al-Qaida terrorists is to spread hope and freedom around the world by fostering democracy.