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U.S. Demands Syria Withdraw Forces From Lebanon


White House Calls on Lebanon to Respect Constitutional Process

Bush administration urges third parties not to interfere or exert pressure

The Bush administration has called for the people of Lebanon to exercise their democratic right to determine their leaders according to their constitution and without pressure or intervention from outside parties.

In an August 27 press statement, the White House said, "The United States looks forward to elections in Lebanon that respect Lebanese institutions, including Lebanon's existing constitution, and that are free of any foreign interference."

The statement specifically addressed Syria, calling on that country to respect "the freedom of the Lebanese people to decide the fate of their nation and its leadership."

The non-renewable six-year term of Lebanon's current president, Emile Lahoud, is set to expire November 24, and according to Lebanon's constitution, the Parliament should act by October 23 to elect a new head of state. Supporters of Lahoud have suggested, however, that the president's term should be extended.

Many Lebanese officials appear to be awaiting guidance from Syria, which has exercised a high degree of political and military influence in Lebanon since the end of the Lebanese civil war.

The White House statement echoed calls by religious, political and civil leaders in Lebanon to respect the existing constitution.

Following is the text of the White House statement:

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
August 27, 2004

STATEMENT BY THE PRESS SECRETARY

The United States believes in a democratic future for the Middle East, and a future for Lebanon that is independent, fully sovereign, and free of all foreign forces.

The United States believes strongly that the best interests of both Lebanon and Syria are served by a positive and constructive relationship, based upon principles of mutual respect and non-intervention, between two neighboring sovereign and independent states. This includes respect for the freedom of the Lebanese people to decide the fate of their nation and its leadership, without pressure or interference from any outside party. We note the recent statements by senior religious, political, and civil society leaders in Lebanon calling for respect of the Lebanese constitution.

The United States looks forward to elections in Lebanon that respect Lebanese institutions, including Lebanon's existing constitution, and that are free of any foreign interference.


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