The United Nations is calling on Syria to establish normal diplomatic relations with Lebanon, and urging both countries to demarcate their common border. The U.N. tells us a new report from Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticizes Iran and Syria for interfering in Lebanon's internal affairs.
In a report to the Security Council, Secretary-General Annan calls on Syria's leaders to accept "the outstretched hand" of Lebanon to establish embassies and delineate their border.
The 23-page report, written by Mr. Annan's special envoy to the region, Terje Roed-Larsen, also breaks new ground in calling attention to Iran's role in the region. It notes the Tehran government's close ties to the terrorist group Hezbollah, which operates on Lebanese territory, and urges both Syria and Iran to cooperate with what is described as Lebanon's "far-sighted leadership", in overcoming the difficulties of the past.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton called the Secretary-General's report a significant step forward in demonstrating the importance of Iran's interference in Lebanese internal affairs. "I thought the last paragraph was quite interesting with the specific reference to all other relevant parties, including Syria and Iran, which I think is significant. I think it's a recognition by the secretary-general that Iran's financing of terrorist groups in Lebanon and Syria has a significant impact on what happens in those two countries. And I think that's an important step forward here at the U.N.," he said.
In a separate footnote, the Secretary-General's report charges that Syria had threatened several members of Lebanon's parliament two years ago, ordering them to approve an extension of President Emile Lahoud's term in office. It notes that Syria's government strongly denied the allegations.
The parliament did approve a change in Lebanon's constitution in September, 2004 allowing the pro-Syrian Lahoud to continue in office for another three year term. That move prompted the Security Council to adopt a Resolution demanding an end to Syria's interference in Lebanon's affairs. It also led to the Secretary-General's latest report.
Syrian forces entered in Lebanon in 1976 at the start of the country's 15-year civil war. Damascus withdrew its troops in 2005, under intense international pressure, following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.