The United Nations has dispatched its Middle East envoy to Damascus to pressure Syria into a full withdrawal from Lebanon. Terje Roed-Larsen’s aim is to come away with a concrete timetable for a pullout. Russia, which historically has close ties with Syria, has joined the fray, arguing an immediate withdrawal as demanded by the US is not practical.
Washington is maintaining its hard line on the pullback, hinting that if Damascus does not comply, the US could respond with sanctions. Once again President Bush has indicated he will not be satisfied with piecemeal compliance with UN demands to go; “Right now, President Assad has said he’s removing to the Bekaa valley. That is a half measure. It is a measure, but a half measure. And UN Resolution 1559 is very clear.”
However, Syria has been buoyed by protests in favour of the regime both in Damascus and Beirut. The latter were organised by Hizbollah, Lebanon’s powerful armed group.
More good news for Syria is the impending re-instatement of the Damascus-friendly prime minister, Omar Karami, who resigned just 10 days ago under opposition pressure.