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US Denies Targeting Italian Journalist

White House Calls Partial Syrian Withdrawal a "Half Measure"

White House Report, March 7: Syria/Lebanon, Iraq/Italy, Terrorism

AGREEMENT ON PARTIAL SYRIAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL CALLED A “HALF MEASURE”

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said the agreement between the presidents of Syria and Lebanon for a partial Syrian troop withdrawal from Lebanon by the end of March “does not go far enough,” and called for the complete and immediate withdrawal of all Syrian military and intelligence forces.

Speaking to the press March 7, McClellan described the withdrawal agreement as “a half measure that does not go far enough.”

The press secretary said the partial troop withdrawal was in line with the 1989 Ta’if Accord, which allows for joint Syrian-Lebanese decisions about the positioning of the Syrian troops, instead of the more recent U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for full withdrawal.

“That's what the [U.N.] resolution states, and that's the resolution that they need to focus on and fully implement,” he said.

McClellan said the United States stands with the Lebanese people, who, he said, “are speaking very clearly that they want a future that is sovereign and independent and free from outside influence and intimidation.”

U.S. DENIES TARGETING ITALIAN JOURNALIST, EXPRESSES REGRET

Press Secretary McClellan said President Bush expressed his regret to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Burlesconi over the “tragic” incident in which Italian reporter Guiliana Sgrena was fired upon by U.S. forces March 4, killing an Italian intelligence agent and injuring Sgrena.

According to McClellan, Bush assured Burlesconi that there would be a full investigation and close cooperation with the Italian investigation into the incident. The press secretary reaffirmed that the United States has “very good” relations with the Italian government and that Bush considers Burlesconi a good friend.

In television interviews March 6, Sgrena accused the United States of targeting her in retaliation for her ransom, which, she said, contravenes U.S. hostage policy.

McClellan said claims that U.S. forces deliberately targeted Sgrena are “absurd” and that the Bush administration is going ahead with a full investigation of the incident.

He said the road to the Baghdad airport, where the attack occurred, is one of the most dangerous roads in Iraq. “It is a dangerous road and it is a combat zone that our coalitions forces are in,” McClellan said.

BUSH TO SPEAK ON PROGRESS IN WAR ON TERROR

President Bush will speak at National Defense University March 8 concerning the War on Terror. The speech will update the American people on progress made in against terrorism, and on recent developments in the Middle East, McClellan said.

Bush will also discuss the U.S. strategy to defeat terrorists and the “great progress” being made in bringing terrorists to justice. “This is a global effort,” McClellan said. “All civilized countries are working together to win that war on terrorism.”

The speech will also discuss the advancement of freedom and liberty in the Middle East, for which, McClellan said, new thinking will be required of governments in the region.

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