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Britain: UN Peacekeepers Could Back Up Syria Pullout from Lebanon

Britain says the United Nations could increase the size of its peacekeeping force in Lebanon to shore up security in support of a Syrian withdrawal from the country.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw raised the possibility of United Nations support for a Syrian pullout from Lebanon during an interview with British radio.

"There are already some United Nations peacekeeping forces in the south of Lebanon," he noted. " It is possible that as part of a phased withdrawal from Lebanon by Syria - it has to be swift but obviously phased so you don't leave a mess - there could be some more peacekeeping troops."

Mr. Straw says there already have been informal talks at the United Nations about the matter. He says there is absolutely no suggestion of any foreign military action to drive Syria out of Lebanon.

But he says Syria must withdraw its 15,000 troops if it hopes to get back into the good graces of the international community.

"If they pull their forces out, then they can come back into the fold of the international community," he said. "If they don't, they really will be treated as a pariah, not just by the West, but by most of their Arab neighbors."

Mr. Straw compares the popular outburst of anti-Syrian sentiment in Lebanon following the assassination two weeks ago of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, to what is called the "Velvet Revolution" of Czechoslovakia in 1989 against Communist rule.

He says the elections in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories have ignited desires for democracy across the Middle East.