Syria has assured the United Nations it will comply with a Security Council resolution calling for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon. A U.N. team that originally verified Syria's pullout is back for a second look.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is committed to ensuring full implementation of U.N. Security Council resolution 1559. The resolution, passed last September, calls for the withdrawal of all foreign military and intelligence forces from Lebanon.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Mr. Annan said his special envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, had received the assurance during a meeting with the Syrian leader last Sunday. "I had sent a letter to Assad, through Larsen, urging him that we and the Syrian government and all the parties concerned work together for the full implementation of resolution 15-59. And Larsen did get the assurance that they are prepared to work with us to fully implement 1559. And we are going to maintain the engagement," he said.
A U.N. inspection team last month verified that all Syrian military forces had withdrawn from Lebanon in compliance with 1559. Secretary-General Annan reported the pullout May 23rd.
Subsequent reports, however, indicated some Syrian intelligence assets may have remained. Mr. Annan last week ordered the two-person verification team back for a second look after receiving additional information that Damascus had ordered some forces to return. "We had worked on verifying their withdrawal. Recently, we've been told there were other elements that may have gone back to Lebanon and the verification team is back, verifying that. And I hope that, at the end of the day, we will be able to give a report that will indicate what is happening or not happening," he said.
Mr. Annan said a separate team investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has begun its work. The team, which is receiving technical help from France and the American FBI, is charged with completing its work and reporting its findings to the Security Council within three months.
Syria had dominated Lebanese politics since the mid 1970s, when it sent soldiers to help end a civil war. An estimated 17,000 Syrian troops were in the country in February when Mr. Hariri died in a bomb blast in Beirut.
The Hariri assassination threw Lebanon into its worst political crisis since the civil war. Anti-Syrian politicians have accused Damascus of being behind the killing. Syrian officials have denied responsibility and condemned the assassination.