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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 March 2005, 06:47 GMT
Key excerpts: Assad speech
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Mr Assad said Syria was not against the principle of troop withdrawal
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has announced that Syria will redeploy its troops in Lebanon in an address to parliament broadcast on Syrian television.

In his speech, the president also defended his country against accusations that it was interfering in Iraq's affairs and called for the killers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri to be found.

Ladies and gentlemen,

members of the People's Assembly, sister and brother citizens: I address you in this, a critical phase in Syria and the region's history.

A Syrian soldiers stands guard at the Syrian intelligence headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon
Syria is under increasing international pressure to withdraw its troops

The most important global issues today, those that shape the plans of some of the world's major powers and define their political options are filtered, either directly or indirectly, through Syria, whether it be peace in the Middle East, terrorism, the Iraqi issue, or the repercussions of the Lebanese situation.

Withdrawal from Lebanon

Contrary to the picture that everybody has, this [withdrawal] is not the problem... Syria is not against the principle of withdrawal. The natural place for Syrian forces is on Syrian territory.

We must not stay one day longer if there is a Lebanese consensus that Syria must leave. Syria's presence in Lebanon must not be a source of discord or division because Syria entered Lebanon to prevent division.

We will withdraw our forces stationed in Lebanon fully to the Bekaa area and then to the Syrian-Lebanese border area.

I have agreed with the President of the Lebanese Republic, Mr Emile Lahoud, that the Higher Syrian-Lebanese Council will meet this week to approve the withdrawal plan.

By completing this measure [...] Syria will have fulfilled its commitments under the Taef Accord and implemented the requirements of [United Nations Security Council] Resolution 1559.

All this does not mean that Syria will abandon its responsibilities to its brothers and friends in Lebanon with whom we have shared a common objective and desire at critical points in our common history. Syria will remain their bastion and their final recourse, and their supporter at all times.

Iraq security

Like many throughout the Arab homeland and the world, we objected to the war [in Iraq] for national, pan-Arabic, and strategic reasons because we believed that the war would lead to a state of chaos and trouble, not only in Iraq, but also in the entire region and that it would directly affect us politically, economically, and socially.

Syrians demonstrate as President Bashar al-Assad addresses the parliament in Damascus

Accusations have been levelled against Syria under the pretext that Syria is interfering in Iraqi affairs.

We have done everything that we could to safeguard Iraq's stability with the available resources; including controlling the borders, rejecting the use of Syrian territory to interfere in Iraqi affairs, and supporting the ongoing political process.

Before resistance began in Iraq, he [US Secretary of State Colin Powell] talked about the need for Syria to control its borders.

We told him that that was impossible... How can we prevent people crossing borders? It is impossible, above all as we lack the high technology needed for border control.

Even the US delegations told us that they could not control the US-Mexico border but said that we would have to control our border.

Of course, as you may notice, the media onslaught continues and does not cease. I don't think that this has to do with Syrian cooperation.

Hariri's assassination

This deplorable crime, which claimed the life of former Prime Minister [Rafik] Hariri, targets the unity and stability of Lebanon.

It also targets the role of Syria and its status in Lebanon and the region.

Therefore, we wish to stress that finding the criminals, and those behind them, is as much a Syrian necessity as a Lebanese one.

Some have, perhaps in shock, or due to pre-determined ideas or ill intentions, tried to use this crime to stir up anti-Syrian sentiments and escalate accusations against the country.

There are usually several suspects in every crime except for this crime, in which there was only one - Syria. This is strange... But Syria will rise above worrying over or replying to these accusations.



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