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Bush asks Syria to stop meddling in Lebanon

Written by: Staff

Washington, Mar 11: President George W Bush said he would continue pressing Syria to stop meddling in Lebanon even if Syria decided to cooperate in other matters such as stopping the flow of militants into Iraq.

''There are no deals. We are people who believe that when we say something, we've got to keep our word,'' Bush told Future Television of Lebanon in an interview.

The interview was taped on Thursday and a transcript was released to reporters yesterday.

The United States, which imposed economic sanctions on Syria in 2004, accuses Damascus of undermining its efforts in Iraq and allowing militants to funnel fighters and cash through its territory. Syria has denied the accusations.

Washington has also called on Syria to end its support for Hamas, the militant group that won the January 25 Palestinian election, and Lebanon's Hizbollah militia.

Syria faces international pressure -- from the United States and other countries -- to cooperate with a UN inquiry that has been trying to identify those behind the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in a Beirut bomb blast on February 14, 2005.

The UN inquiry has implicated Syrian security officials and their Lebanese allies in the murder. Syrian officials deny that President Bashar al-Assad's Government was involved in the assassination.

After Hariri's murder, large demonstrations in Lebanon last year forced Syria to bow to demands that it end its 29-year military presence in Lebanon. Despite that withdrawal, the United States has accused Syria of continuing to interfere in Lebanese affairs.

Bush said he will keep up the pressure to get Syria to cooperate with the UN probe.

''We're not going to turn a blind eye,'' he said.


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