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UN envoy seeking Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon holds talks with Europeans

8 March 2005 ? 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 the 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.

Speaking to reporters today, the Secretary-General said there was no plan for the United Nations to send in a force to monitor the withdrawal of Syrian troops.

"That is an issue that the Security Council will have to decide - whether they want to send in an international force or not," he said in response to a question.

"I have indicated that I do not have a mandate from the Security Council to send a force to Lebanon. Obviously, we do have our forces in southern Lebanon, but they have a separate mandate which does not include the monitoring of the Syrian withdrawal," he added, referring to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

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