May 17, 2006

CORRECTED: UN Security Council pushes Syria on ties to Lebanon

Please delete eighth paragraph and read in seventh
paragraph ... and establish full diplomatic relations ...
instead of ... improve diplomatic relations

A corrected story follows:

By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A divided U.N. Security Council
on Wednesday pressed Syria to improve its diplomatic ties with
Lebanon and clarify their shared border to help turn the page
on decades of Syrian domination of its neighbor.

China and Russia abstained from a 13-0 vote in the
15-member Security Council to implement fully a 2004 measure
seeking an end to outside interference in Lebanon.

The 2004 text, Security Council Resolution 1559, called for
the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, free and
fair presidential elections, and the disarming of all militias
so the government could extend its control to all of its
territory. It has been only partly implemented.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton welcomed the vote but
acknowledged he would have preferred it to be unanimous.

"It makes clear the burden is now on Syria to respond to
Lebanon's request for border delineation and the full exchange
of diplomatic relations," Bolton told reporters.

"It clearly says to Syria it needs to do more to stop the
flow of weapons across the Syrian-Lebanese border. And it makes
it clear that the further disarming of all militia inside
Lebanon is an important priority," he said.

The resolution "strongly encourages" Syria to respond to
Lebanese government requests to clarify their shared border and
establish full diplomatic relations.

Syria's Foreign Ministry said the resolution drafted by
France, the United States and Britain "constitutes uncalled for
pressure and provocation that complicates the situation."

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Syria and
Lebanon should be left alone to pursue a dialogue.

"We just don't think it is the right thing for the Security
Council to look over their shoulder at every particular
juncture and make comments and remarks," he told reporters.


Syria ended its 29-year military presence in Lebanon in
April 2005, responding to international outrage and Lebanese
protests sparked by the assassination a few months earlier of
former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

U.N. investigators have cited evidence linking senior
Syrian as well as Lebanese officials to the killing.

Despite Resolution 1559, however, Hizbollah fighters remain
active in southern Lebanon, regularly skirmishing with Israeli
forces in the Shebaa Farms border area.

The resolution also pushed Syria to take steps to prevent
arms flows from Syrian territory to militias in Lebanon, and it
called on "all concerned states and parties" to cooperate with
the Lebanese government and the United Nations in fully
implementing the 2004 resolution.

Bolton said that language referred to Iran and the Iranian-
and Syrian-supported Hizbollah militia as well as to Syria.

Churkin acknowledged the measure contained "a veiled
reference to Iran" but said it also referred to "other players
involved" in Lebanon.

Qatar's U.N. ambassador, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser,
identified Israel as one of those "other players" and said the
draft should have faulted Israel for its frequent military
flights over Lebanese territory.

Hizbollah says it needs to stay armed to defend the Shebaa
Farms area, which it insists is part of Lebanon. The United
Nations says it is part of Israeli-occupied Syria, but that
Beirut and Damascus could set their border as they see fit.