Waiting for Damascus to take action: The U.S. and the international community would not be satisfied until Syria withdraws its forces from Lebanon, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in response to reports of an expected announcement by Assad regarding a partial Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon.
In an interview with PBS television channel, Rice said “There is a United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, sponsored by the United States and by France. There are now calls from important Arab countries like Saudi Arabia for Syria to withdraw.”
“The Lebanese people, perhaps most importantly, have said that the Syrians should withdraw because the Lebanese people are demonstrating that they want to be able to carry out their political aspirations without foreign interference, and Syria should heed that call,” she said.
Although Rice did not directly accuse Syria of assassinating former Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri, she did say “The conditions that Syria has created in Lebanon with their presence there, with their efforts to destabilize, with their efforts to control the course of Lebanese affairs on a daily, hourly basis, has certainly created the circumstances in which the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri took place.”
“Therefore, Syria needs to change its behavior, it needs to recognize that the time is up, that people are no longer willing to tolerate Syrian influence and Syrian forces there,” she said. “The Middle East is changing. And those states that don't recognize that the Middle East is changing, and indeed try to halt that change - states like Syria or Iran - need now to be, by the international community, isolated and condemned for that.”
Rice said the Arab World is currently going through a process similar to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
“Well, I was around for the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was here in Washington, the National Security Council staff,” she said. “And it certainly has a feel of people gaining a sense of their own power to change things, a sense of their own ability to chart a different course despite what just months ago had seem to be a fairly implacable status quo.”
U.S. versus Syria?
Regarding U.S. President George W. Bush’s statement that the U.S. demands nothing short of a full Syrian pullout from Lebanon, Rice said Syria must withdraw its security and intelligence personnel as well.
“Syrian security personnel, their intelligence services, cast a long shadow over Lebanon, and it is going to be very difficult for the Lebanese people to exercise their franchise freely in the upcoming elections with Syrian personnel still there,” she said.
In response to a statement made by Syrian Ambassador to the U.S Imad Moustapha in which he said the U.S should not view Syria as an enemy, Rice said “The Syrians have tried to make this an issue between the United States and Syria; it is clearly not.”
“When the Syrians used their territory or allow their territory to be used for Palestinian Islamic Jihad to plot and plan a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, that is clearly aimed right at the peace process and aimed at the aspirations therefore of the Palestinian people,” she said.
“When the Syrians allow their territory to be used by insurgents, former regime elements of the old Saddam Hussein regime, to attack Iraqis who are trying to have a better future in Iraq, the Syrians are frustrating the aspirations of the Iraqi people.”