Arab nations must stand by Syria, because even though Syria is currently targeted, the rest of the Arab countries will face similar challenges in the near future, the Syrian government’s official newspaper Teshreen said Saturday.
The statement came ahead of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s expected speech at the Syrian parliament Saturday.
The newspaper added Assad’s speech would deal with “the latest political developments.”
Although Western sources said they hope Assad would announce a complete withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, Lebanese officials estimated Assad would discuss only a partial pullout.
U.S. demands complete withdrawal
Earlier, U.S Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. and the international community would not be content with anything short of a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon.
In an interview with PBS television channel, she said “there is a United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, sponsored by the United States and by France.
There are also calls from important Arab countries like Saudi Arabia for Syria to withdraw, she said.
“The Lebanese people, perhaps most importantly, have said 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,” Rice said.
Regarding U.S. President George W. Bush’s statement that the U.S. demands nothing short of a full Syrian pullout from Lebanon, she 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,” Rice said.
Crisis began with Hariri assassination
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, she said the Syrians have tried to make this an issue between the U.S and Syria, which 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,” Rice 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.”
The crisis in Lebanon began following the assassination of former Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri, who was a staunch opposer of the Syrian occupation.
The Lebanese citizens vented their rage during a series of mass demonstrations against Syria and Syrian-backed Lebanese President Emil Lahoud, which resulted in the resignation of the Lebanese government, headed by Prime Minister Omar Karami.
- Roee Nachmias, Yitzhak Benhorin, and news agencies contributed to this article