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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Apr 15th
Home arrow News Content arrow U.S., France Team Up to Pressure Syria
U.S., France Team Up to Pressure Syria PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Rice with Sarkozy in Paris 6/26/2007

U.S., France Team Up to Pressure Syria to Keep Out of Lebanon Affairs

The United States and France have teamed up to pressure Syria to keep out of the affairs of Lebanon, and to bolster Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's fragile government.

The reassuring statements came after Saniora's separate meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris on Tuesday.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Rice "emphasized our continued support as the government confronts the threat posed by violent extremism."

"She underscored her support for the Saniora government in their political and economic reform efforts," he said.

Rice's 90-minute morning meeting with Saniora wrapped up her two-day visit to Paris. Saniora was to hold a working lunch with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday.

Before her meeting with Saniora, Rice emphasized the importance of U.N. efforts toward an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for the Feb. 2005 assassination of ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and noted the active U.S. and French roles in Lebanon in recent years.

"We have accomplished a lot," Rice said on France's TF-1 television Monday night. "But now we are in a phase in which we need to carry through on the tribunal, in which we need to carry through on the obligations of the U.N. Security Council resolution that will not tolerate Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs, and to support the Saniora government."

Rice has warned in the past that Saniora's government was at risk of falling apart. Some in the region have sounded similar warnings, saying giving Hizbullah veto power would bring Lebanon back under the influence of Iran and Syria, the main supporters of the Shiite guerrillas.

She sounded more reassured Tuesday. Rice Kouchner Moon in Paris June 24, 2007

"I think he would be the first to say that given all that they're dealing with it's always difficult, and always in some sense fragile," Rice said. "But what's remarkable about this government is they keep responding to the challenges and overcoming them."

Lebanon's parliament is not functioning and the government just barely, after a quarter of the Cabinet members resigned. Opposition supporters have been holding a sit-in outside Saniora's office since Dec. 1, calling for his resignation and the formation of a new government.

Saniora has refused to step down.

The Lebanese army has also been battling al-Qaida-inspired militants barricaded in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon for more than a month. Separately, the country is still fixing the damage inflicted by Israeli bombers in last year's war between the Jewish state and Hizbullah.

Rice said she and Saniora discussed U.S. aid operations in Lebanon, including millions she pledged in January to help rebuild roads, bridges and other crucial infrastructure damaged in the 34-day war last summer.

In January, Rice announced a tripling of U.S. aid to Lebanon to nearly US$770 million to help Saniora's government.

The donation would include $220 million in military aid. The money could buy small arms, ammunition, spare parts and Humvees, U.S. officials said.

Lebanon and the situation in Gaza were also discussed in separate talks Tuesday in Paris between Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa.

Sarkozy and Saniora also discussed the situation in southern Lebanon, including the bombing that killed six U.N. peacekeepers Sunday. The U.N. force, known as UNIFIL, is helping maintain stability there.

"We have said there will be no concessions, that there will be no going backward and no retreat," Saniora said. "All the UNIFIL member states are firm in their positions. Nobody will give in to terrorism."

Paris has been attempting to organize a meeting between Lebanon's political factions, apparently with difficulty.

After Tuesday's meeting between Sarkozy and Saniora, a date had still not been set, officials said.

Saniora said that though he supported France's effort, the officials taking part in the talks would be second-tier. "There won't be any extremely exaggerated expectations about this meeting for dialogue," he said.(AP-AFP-Naharnet)

Beirut, 27 Jun 07, 09:53

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 June 2007 )
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