US will not allow Syria to Reassert Authority over Lebanon
Posted by thebosun on December 13, 2006
Courtesy of USINFO
12 December 2006
U.S. Will Not Allow Syria To Reassert Authority over Lebanon
Rice says tribunal on Prime Minister Hariri’s assassination “must go forward”
By Stephen Kaufman
USINFO Staff Writer
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (© AP Images)
Washington — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed support for the Lebanese government and pro-democracy activists in Lebanon who have resisted Syrian control of their country, and said the United States will not compromise the future of Lebanon for its other interests in the Middle East.
In an interview with Agence France Presse December 11, Rice said the Bush administration understands “who Lebanon’s enemies are,” and who is seeking to bring down the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, and who is acting against the interests of those who demonstrated in 2005 against the murder of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
“[W]e are committed to standing by those Lebanese democrats who have risked everything in favor of Lebanese democracy and who have faced assassinations … and who stood in the streets of Lebanon to get Syrian forces out,” she said, adding “there is no way that the United States or the international community could ever countenance a reassertion of Syrian authority in Lebanon.”
The “struggling democratic forces … need to understand that we are fully and completely, along with the international community, in support of them and their goals and their legitimacy in Lebanon,” Rice said.
Rice accused Syria and Iran of working to undermine the Siniora government, and said despite calls for the United States to engage both countries in discussions over neighboring Iraq, Washington will not negotiate Lebanon’s future with anybody. “[I]n no way is the United States going to get into a situation where it is even a conceivable notion on the part of Syria or Iran that the future of Lebanon would somehow be compromised for other interests of the United States. We’re simply not going to get into that situation,” she said.
She said the tribunal authorized by the U.N. Security Council to try individuals suspected of involvement in the February 14, 2005, murder of Prime Minister Hariri “has got to go forward,” saying it is “a matter of justice,” as well as a means to demonstrate that “people who assassinate leaders can’t do so with impunity.” (See related article.)
Rice said Syria has shown no cooperation with the international community’s efforts to establish the tribunal, and speculated that Syria’s support of extremist forces in Lebanon seeking to bring down the Siniora government has been driven by its opposition to the tribunal.
She called for an end to the ongoing Hezbollah demonstrations against the government and for compromise among the Lebanese. “There has to be a Lebanese solution to this problem and I think we have to let the Lebanese deal with it,” she said.
FUNDAMENTALS IN PLACE FOR ESTABLISHING PALESTINIAN STATE
Asked about efforts to restart discussions between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Rice said there is “a better chance” than in the past to establish a Palestinian state “because certain fundamentals are in place.”
Before President Bush’s June 24, 2002, speech calling for an independent Palestinian state, “no American president had dared say it,” and now a two-state solution to the conflict “easily rolls off our tongues,” Rice said, adding that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon himself began to talk about the need to share the land and implemented a Gaza disengagement plan that “for the first time, actually took Israeli settlers out of land and returned land to the Palestinians.”
Rice said the international community should not “facilely throw away what’s happened in the last four years because a great deal of it has moved us closer to the day when we can realize a Palestinian state, not further away from it.”
She said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and others are working to resolve the Hamas-led government’s “unwillingness to govern from a position that is internationally acceptable,” including its support of terrorism and refusal to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.
“[O]nce they come to a way to resolve the crisis, I am sure we’ll be there to support them,” she said.
Rice also discussed progress on a U.N. Security Council resolution concerning Iran’s nuclear activities, talks on North Korea’s nuclear program, Iraq, Russia, Sudan and the United Nations.
A full transcript of Rice’s interview is available on the State Department Web site.
For more information on U.S. policy, see Lebanon Assistance.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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