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Annan hopes Syrian troop withdrawal from Lebanon

Annan hopes to see start of Syrian troop withdrawal from Lebanon by April

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today he hoped that there would be clear signs of a withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon within the next two months.

Mr. Annan, who sent his special envoy on the issue last week to both Lebanon and Syria, told reporters on his arrival at UN Headquarters in New York that it had been made clear to both parties that “we needed to see more progress” towards implementing Security Council resolution 1559, which called for a withdrawal of foreign troops.

“The resolution does call for withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon and the discussions we had with them was that we needed to see more progress, and I hope that there will be actual action and actual signs, clear signs of withdrawal, by the time I submit my next report to the Security Council, which is due in April,” he said in reply to reporters’ questions.

The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the implementation of resolution 1559, Terje Roed-Larsen, visited Damascus and Beirut in his first visit to the region in his new capacity, delivering messages from Mr. Annan to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanese President Emile Lahoud as well as meeting with an array of senior officials of both countries.

The resolution, adopted last September, calls for the withdrawal of all remaining foreign forces from Lebanon, disbanding all militias and extending Government control over the whole country.

Although the resolution does not specifically mention Syria, Mr. Annan said in an initial report in October that aside from a UN peacekeeping force, the only significant foreign forces in Lebanon were Syrian. He said Syria indicated it had some 14,000 troops still inside Lebanon stationed near the border, and that it had redeployed about 3,000 other forces.

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