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UN Holds Talks With Europeans Over Lebanon


UN Envoy Seeking Syrian Withdrawal From Lebanon Holds Talks With Europeans

The United Nations envoy seeking the withdrawal of some 14,000 Syrian troops from Lebanon held talks with European Union (EU) officials today in Brussels on his way to his second visit to the region in a month.

Terje Roed-Larsen, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Envoy for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 calling for withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, disbanding all militias and extending Government control over the whole country, discussed his mission with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Mr. Larsen, who said he would brief Mr. Solana on his return from Syria and Lebanon, also met with the EU's Policy and Security Committee, consisting of the Permanent Representatives of the 25 member states, who assured him of full EU backing for his difficult mission.

He last visited Lebanon and Damascus in the first half of February, his first trip in the new job he assumed in January after serving as UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. Since then, the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has increased tension in the area.

Syrian troops have been in Lebanon since the early stages of the 1975-1990 civil war and last week Mr. Annan reiterated his earlier hope that he will be able to report progress when he submits his next report in April.

In a press statement over the weekend, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said Mr. Annan had taken note of a speech by Syrian President Bashar Al Assad outlining a phased withdrawal and "will study it carefully."

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