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Last Updated: Friday, 1 October, 2004, 19:27 GMT 20:27 UK
Syria 'refusing to leave Lebanon'
Syrian troops at a checkpoint near Beirut
Syrian troops have been in Lebanon for 28 years
Syria has not withdrawn troops from neighbouring Lebanon, as demanded by a Security Council resolution, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says.

In a written report, Mr Annan told the Council that Syria has so far refused to say when and how troops would leave.

"The government of Syria has informed me that it cannot provide me with numbers and timetables for any future withdrawal," he said.

The resolution had urged Syria to withdraw 17,000 troops from Lebanon.

'Mutual agreement'

But both countries, who have a close political relationship, have indicated the soldiers were there at Beirut's request, Mr Annan said.

Syrian troops were on the ground "at the invitation of Lebanon and that their presence is therefore by mutual agreement," the report said.

Mr Annan says that according to Damascus, a total of about 14,000 Syrian troops remain in Lebanon.

"It says that a majority of these forces are now based near the Syrian border and that they are not deployed deep inside Lebanon," he said.

The US and France-sponsored resolution - passed on 2 September - called for Lebanon's political independence to be respected and demanded the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country.

Weeks after the resolution, Syria and Lebanon announced that Damascus had begun to relocate troops from positions around the Lebanese capital.

The BBC's Susannah Price in New York says the UN has no means of verifying this claim and that it appears the redeployment of troops was not a response to the resolution.

Political independence

Mr Annan called once more for Lebanon's independence to be respected and for Syrian troops to leave the country.

"It is time, 14 years after the end of hostilities and four years after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, for all parties concerned to set aside the remaining vestiges of the past," the UN chief said.

Syria first sent troops into Lebanon in 1976, at the beginning of the civil war there.

Most of the forces stayed on in the country after the conflict ended in 1990.

Lebanon's defence minister has said Syria will withdraw fully only when the Arab-Israeli conflict ends.

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Country profile: Lebanon
09 Jul 04  |  Country profiles

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