Lebanon's prime minister urged the United States on Thursday to pressure Israel to pull out of the disputed Sheba Farms, but the Bush administration said this was an issue for Lebanon to resolve with Syria.
Fouad Siniora said Israel must leave the Sheba Farms border area so his government could have authority over all its land and he asked President George W. Bush's help to achieve this goal.
"Israel should withdraw from all the territories that belong to Lebanon. This would be a very important step in the process we are taking so that we reach a point where Lebanon will be liberated from all Israeli occupation," Siniora said at the National Press Club in Washington.
Siniora, who discussed the issue with Bush this week, said the U.S. President had listened carefully and voiced "appreciation for our request."
U.S.: Issue for Syria and Lebanon to work out
Israel took control of the tiny region where Israel, Syria and Lebanon meet during the 1967 Six-Days War. The United Nations and Israel both say Sheba is Syrian land while Lebanon argues it belongs to them.
Asked whether the United States would put pressure on Israel over Sheba Farms, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the disputed territory was an issue for Syria and Lebanon to work out and not the United States.
He said public statements from both Syria and Lebanon indicated agreement the disputed territory belonged to Lebanon but Syria was not prepared to enter negotiations on this.
"Syria is all too happy to let the situation stand as it is, because in their view, there is no percentage in beginning a negotiation with Lebanon on this," said McCormack.
"So I think it is a fair assessment to say that they are the key stumbling block to resolving these issues," he added.