Foreign forces in Lebanon

A US-drafted resolution demanding Syria withdraw its forces from Lebanon and refrain from interfering in Beirut’s presidential elections narrowly went through the UN Security Council on Thursday. The council voted 9-0 with six abstentions to adopt the resolution. This is the minimum vote possible. United States and cosponsor France agreed under pressure not to mention Syria by name and the resolution was worded to reprimand ‘foreign forces’. However, Syria is the only country with foreign forces in Lebanon. The resolution aims to head off a move in Lebanon’s parliament to amend the constitution and extend the term of Syrian-backed Lebanese President Emile Lahoud for three years after his current six-year term expires in November. The constitutional amendment was approved last week. It said regional instability due to the Iraq and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict made it necessary for Lahoud to stay at the helm. Opponents, including Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, said there was no emergency that would prevent an election, informs Daily Times. According to VOANews, the United States says the Lebanese parliament's decision Friday to extend the term of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud made a "crude mockery of democratic principles." The action came despite U.N. Security Council approval late Thursday of a resolution, backed by the United States and France, upholding Lebanese sovereignty. The resolution attracted only the minimum nine votes in the Security Council needed for passage. And the Lebanese parliament, as expected, ignored the U.N. appeal Friday and approved the constitutional amendment sought by Syria keeping Mr. Lahoud in office for another three years. But the State Department insists that the exercise at the United Nations was worthwhile, in that it again put the international community on record opposing outside inference in Lebanese affairs. The U.S. and French-sponsored measure called for the removal of remaining foreign forces from Lebanon, the disarming of militias, and for strict respect of Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence. Lebanon's parliament voted overwhelmingly Friday to extend the term of Syrian-backed President Emile Lahoud, despite a U.N. Security Council resolution warning Damascus against interfering in Lebanon. Ninety-six deputies voted in favor of a constitutional amendment extending Lahoud's six-year mandate, with 29 opposed and three absent. Fireworks boomed over Beirut's city center, which security forces had locked down ahead of the vote in parliament. Most deputies are allied to Syria, which has some 17,000 troops and final authority in Lebanon. The results of the vote had been a foregone conclusion since a hastily convened cabinet last week recommended the amendment, reports Reuters.

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