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UN envoy on Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon meets with Arab League chief

9 March 2005 The United Nations envoy seeking the withdrawal of some 14,000 Syrian troops from Lebanon held talks today with Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa on his way to the Middle East for his second series of talks in a month with Lebanese and Syrian leaders.

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, met with Mr. Moussa in Madrid, Spain, before leaving for Egypt for talks with President Hosni Mubarak.

Last night he discussed his mission with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos after meeting with European leaders in Brussels.

He last visited Lebanon and Syria 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.

At the weekend Syrian President Bashar Al Assad offered a phased withdrawal of his country's troops, which have been in Lebanon since the early stages of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Mr. Annan, speaking to reporters today in Spain, where he will deliver a major speech on Thursday outlining a UN strategy against terrorism, emphasized again that a "full withdrawal" of foreign forces from Lebanon was the key point.

"I think that, from the Security Council's point of view, what is essential is that full and complete withdrawal takes place, regardless of whether it is done on the UN resolution, on the Taif agreement [ending Lebanon's civil war], or a decision by the Government of Syria," he said.

"The Government of Syria has not rejected the Security Council resolution and we will be working with them, and I will have a better sense after my envoy comes back to report to me following his discussions as to how quickly the withdrawal can take place, and I hope he will be able to come back with a timetable."

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