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UN step would end Syria's denial of Lebanon -US

Written by: Staff
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UNITED NATIONS, May 13 (Reuters) The UN Security Council must pass a resolution pressing Damascus and Beirut to establish diplomatic ties to force Syria to ''come out of denial'' and recognize Lebanese sovereignty, US Ambassador John Bolton said.

A draft resolution circulated at the United Nations by Britain, France and the United States this week called on Syria to respond to Lebanese government requests to clarify their shared border and agree to formal diplomatic relations.

Some of the council's 15 members have signaled they wanted the language taken out of the draft, saying it amounted to unwarranted interference in the neighbors' internal affairs.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mekdad has been lobbying members to oppose any new resolution, arguing that borders and diplomatic ties were outside the council's reach.

But Bolton yesterday called the provision ''critical to force Syria to come out of denial that Lebanon is an independent country.'' ''The question between Syria and Lebanon involves a decades-long occupation of one country by the other, a continued meddling in the internal affairs of Lebanon by Syria,'' he said.

Danish Ambassador Ellen Margrethe Loj also defended the provision. ''In my mind there is no doubt that it is needed,'' she said. But Greek Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis cautioned that the resolution must conform ''to the proper responsibilities of the council.'' The draft would also call on Syria to take steps to prevent arms flows from Syrian territory to militias in Lebanon.

VOTE EARLY NEXT WEEK French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere said he hoped for a vote on the measure early next week.

The text broadly seeks full implementation of council Resolution 1559 of September 2004, which called for an end to outside interference in Lebanon, which at the time had been under Syrian domination for 29 years.

Syria withdrew from Lebanon in April 2005, responding to international outrage and Lebanese protests sparked by the assassination a few months earlier of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. U.N. investigators have reported evidence that high-ranking Syrian officials and their Lebanese allies were involved in the killing.

Despite Resolution 1559, Hizbollah fighters, backed by Syria and Iran, remain active in southern Lebanon, regularly skirmishing with Israeli forces in the Shebaa Farms area.

Hizbollah, whose attacks helped end 22 years of Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000, says it needs to stay armed to defend the Shebaa Farms area, which it insists is part of Lebanon. The United Nations says it is part of Israeli-occupied Syria but that Beirut and Damascus could get together and fix their border as they see fit.

REUTERS PG PM0416

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