US President Bush on Friday rejected any partial withdrawal of Syrian soldiers from Lebanon, saying he will not accept the kind of "half-measures" Damascus is inclined to propose as a compromise.
"There are no half-measures at all," Bush said. "When the United States and France say withdraw, we mean complete withdrawal, no halfhearted measures."
Sources expected that Syrian President Bashar Assad will announce on Saturday a troop pullback to eastern Lebanon near the Syrian border but not a full withdrawal.
"Syria, Syrian troops, Syria's intelligence services, must get out of Lebanon now," the US leader noted. "The world is beginning to speak with one voice. We want that democracy in Lebanon to succeed, and we know it cannot succeed so long as she is occupied by a foreign power and that power is Syria."
Bush told the New York Post in an interview published Friday that he wants Syria's longtime presence in Lebanon and influence on its political affairs ended by May so the latter can have free elections. "The subject that is most on my mind right now is getting Syria out of Lebanon, and I don't mean just the troops out of Lebanon, I mean all of them out of Lebanon, particularly the secret service out of Lebanon - the intelligence services," he said.
"This is non-negotiable. It is time to get out . . . I think we've got a good chance to achieve that objective and to make sure that the May elections [in Lebanon] are fair. I don't think you can have fair elections with Syrian troops there," the president said