U.N. peacekeepers may be deployed to cover Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon

Britain says U.N. peacekeepers may be deployed to cover Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon Members of the U.N. Security Council have discussed the possibility of deploying peacekeeping forces in Lebanon to cover the withdrawal of Syrian troops, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Friday. Syria is under increasing diplomatic pressure to withdraw its 15,000 soldiers from Lebanon. "There are already some U.N. peacekeeping forces in the south of Lebanon. It is possible that as part of a phased withdrawal from the Lebanon by Syria it would have to be swift, but obviously phased so you don't leave a mess there could be some more peacekeeping troops," Straw said in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. radio. "I mean, that has been talked about but in an informal, not a formal, way" in the Security Council, Straw said. Syria has resisted Arab pressure to withdraw, saying in behind-the-scenes diplomacy in recent days that it wants to keep 3,000 troops and early-warning stations in Lebanon, according to an Arab diplomat in Cairo. A Syrian withdrawal is essential, Straw said. "It has got to, it is very clear. That was the call by the U.N. Security Council in Resolution 1559 last September. Now every one of its neighbors is saying you have got to leave, and this includes very strong representations by Saudi Arabia and Russia. "So Syria really does face a strategic choice, which it has to take. It may be tough for it," Straw said, noting that Damascus was concerned "that if they pull their forces out Lebanon, they will face the possibility of invasion by Israel, which most Arabs in the region think is complete nonsense." He said that a Syrian withdrawal would have to be carried out "in a sensible, swift but phased way. Then they can come back into the fold of the international community. If they don't, they really will be treated as a pariah, not just by the West, but by most of their Arab neighbors." Straw ruled out any Western military action against Syria. "I promise you, there is absolutely no suggestion of military action. Absolutely none," Straw said.

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