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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Aug 12th
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Extremism In Lebanon arrow 'Rice warned Moallem' against trying to revive role in Lebanon
'Rice warned Moallem' against trying to revive role in Lebanon PDF Print E-mail
Written by Daily Star, AFP   
Friday, 03 October 2008


Syrians deny wanting anything more than security coordination

The US government has warned Syria against any attempt to restore its formerly dominant position in Lebanon, the pan-Arab daily Al-Haayat said Thursday Arab and Western diplomatic sources quoted by Al-Hayat  said Damascus had asked Beirut for security cooperation to control the common borders between the two countries.

The issue was raised during a meeting between US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem and another meeting between Moallem and David Welch, the US assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last week.

According to Al-Hayat sources, Rice told Moallem that Syria would pay a "political price" should it seek to renew its military presence in Lebanon.

The sources said Rice and Welch warned Moallem that it was not right for Syrian forces to cross the border and enter Lebanese territory because this would be a violation of Lebanese sovereignty and international resolutions and would earn Syria political sanctions.

The sources added that Moallem had been surprised by these claims. "We are not at all considering interfering with Lebanon, but we seek security cooperation to control the borders, stop smuggling and disband fundamentalist groups," he was quoted as saying.

The minister added that security cooperation between two neighbor states was a legitimate request.

Moallem told the pan-Arab Ash-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper there was smuggling both to and from Lebanon - which Syria dominated until 2005 when it was forced to withdraw troops from its smaller neighbor.

"The question of the border between Syria and Lebanon needs two actions: delineation [of the frontier] and Syrian-Lebanese security cooperation," Moallem was quoted as saying. "Nobody can control the borders with Lebanon."

Al-Mustaqbal newspaper reported on Thursday that France denied any "green light granted to Syria in Lebanon."

The daily said France stressed its support for Lebanon's sovereignty and stability.

Meanwhile, quoting what were decribed as well-informed French diplomatic sources, the Central News Agency (CNA) said that France was not worried about the situation in Lebanon.

The sources added that Lebanon and Syria should work on "strengthening their common borders each from their own side of the border."

Al-Hayat sources said Damascus denied claims by some Lebanese parties that "sooner or later" Syria would restore its military presence in the country. The sources cited Syrian President Bashar  Assad as saying during recent meetings with some Lebanese opposition figures that there was no intention to restore Syria's military presence in Lebanon, adding that a strategy for security cooperation was needed to fight terrorism, in particular after the appointment of new officials in Lebanon' military and security servicess.

According to Al-Hayat sources, security cooperation sought by Syria would include a series of measures to fight terrorism and stop smuggling across illegal border points in the North and the Bekaa Valley.

Sources quoted by the daily said Syria had submitted to Lebanon an official request for security cooperation weeks before the explosion in Damascus on Saturday. They added that Assad raised this matter with his Lebanese counterpart, Michel Sleiman, during the Arab Summit held in August in the Syrian capital, just hours after an explosion that targeted the Lebanese Army in Tripoli.

The sources also said that the Lebanese Cabinet was currently discussing the issue in order to reply to the Syrian side. However, Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh dismissed claims that the Cabinet was discussing security cooperation during its ministerial sessions. Salloukh told The Daily Star that "the relevant authorities" are the ones to deal with this issue.

Following a visit to Sleiman on Thursday, Interior Minister Ziad Baroud said the president stressed the importance of strengthening the Lebanese-Syrian borders through an agreement with Syria. Baroud added that the deployment of Syrian troops along the borders with Lebanon should be viewed in this context.

Future Movement leader MP Saad Hariri lashed out at the Syrian president Monday, saying he was trying to insinuate that Lebanon, the North in particular, was responsible for the security situation in Syria. Assad had told the head of Lebanon's Journalists Union, Melhem Karam, on Monday that North Lebanon had become a "base for extremism and constitutes a danger for Syria," after the explosion that broke out in Damascus last week.

The CNA said Thursday that according to security reports delivered by visitors of high-ranking Syrian security officials, the rigged car that exploded in Damascus did not enter Syrian territory from Lebanon.

Syrian authorities ban Saudi daily from newsstands

BEIRUT: Syria is blocking distribution of the Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, the paper's Beirut bureau chief Zuhair Qusaybati told AFP on Thursday.

"The censorship authorities at the Information Ministry in Damascus asked Al-Hayat's bureau in the Syrian capital on Monday to stop sending its issues to the country until further notice," Qusaybati told AFP.

The daily is published in London and printed in a number of Arab capitals including Beirut, Cairo, and Riyadh.

In Syria, its distribution has long been subject to advance censorship and a number of issues have been withheld from newsstands due to their contents.

Relations between Damascus and Riyadh have been tense since the February 2005 assassination of Lebanese former Premier Rafik Hariri, a close Saudi ally, in a bombing widely blamed on Syria.

The ban on Al-Hayat's distribution in Syria came hot on the heels of a bomb blast which killed 17 people in Damascus on Saturday, the deadliest attack in the Syrian capital in more than a decade. - AFP


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