UN demands Syrian troops quit Lebanon

Nine of the 15 council members voted for the resolution and six abstained.

The resolution is aimed at Syria, and warns against foreign interference in Beirut’s presidential election.

The resolution was originally proposed by France and the United States, and comes as Lebanese legislators prepare to vote on a controversial constitutional change demanded by Syria that would allow pro-Damascus president Emile Lahoud, set to leave office November 24, to remain for an extra three years.

“We thought that we had to act now because the situation in Lebanon is moving very quickly,” said US Ambassador John Danforth.

“The government of Syria has imposed its political will on Lebanon and has compelled the cabinet and the national assembly to amend its constitution and abort the electoral process. We believe Lebanon should be allowed to determine its own future and assume control of its territory.”

“France believes that by acting firmly today, the Security Council is showing its confidence in Lebanon’s future,” said French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere.

“This future must be marked by the restoration of its sovereignty and not by the intensification of outside interference,” he said.

Most abstaining council members said they agreed with Lebanon that the measure interfered in the country’s internal affairs and would not contribute to a Middle East peace.

The resolution said upcoming Lebanese presidential elections should be free and fair elections and without foreign interference or influence.

It was amended from its original version to ensure its passage, with a demand for Syrian forces to withdraw immediately from Lebanon changed to a demand that foreign forces withdraw without delay from Lebanon.

Syria, whose troops occupy Lebanon, exercises significant control over Lebanese politics.

Both Lebanon and Syria objected to the resolution, with Lebanese envoy Mohammed Issa telling the council the issue was “an internal matter.”

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