Bush tells Syria to get out of Lebanon
US President Bush on Wednesday demanded that Syria get out of Lebanon, saying the free world is in agreement that Damascus' authority over the political affairs of its neighbor must end now.
He applauded the strong message sent to the Syrian government when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier held a joint news conference on London on Tuesday.
"Both of them stood up and said loud and clear to Syria, You get your troops and your secret services out of Lebanon so that good democracy has a chance to flourish," Bush said, according to The AP.
The world, Bush said, "is speaking with one voice when it comes to making sure that democracy has a chance to flourish in Lebanon." "Syria knows the concerns of the international community, and they know what they need to do to change their behavior and become a constructive member of the region and the international community," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said earlier Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Lebanese opposition on Wednesday demanded a "full" withdrawal of Syrian troops and intelligence agents from Lebanon.
Opposition leaders meeting in Beirut asked Assad to issue a formal announcement pulling his forces out of Lebanon. "The core of our pressing demands on the road to salvation and independence is represented by a full withdrawal of the Syrian army and intelligence from Lebanon," said a statement released following the meeting.
Reading the statement, opposition lawmaker Ahmed Fatfat called for "a Syrian response through an official announcement to be issued by the president of the Arab Syrian republic to withdraw the Syrian forces and its intelligence from Lebanon."
Lebanese opposition leader Walid Jumblatt demanded Wednesday that Syria give precise dates for withdrawing its 15,000 troops from Lebanon. The Syrian president told Time magazine that his forces could leave Lebanon "maybe in the next few months. Not after that."
"It's a nice gesture, but 'next few months' is quite vague," Jumblatt told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. "We need a clear-cut timetable."
In Damascus, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad held talks with the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad Ben Khalifa Al-Thani, a crucial US ally. There were no details on the content of these talks.