Israel wants Syria out of Lebanon

Feb. 1, 2004 at 11:24 AM

JERUSALEM, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Israel's foreign minister announced Sunday he has started a campaign to oust Syria from Lebanon.

The Ha'aretz news agency reported Silvan Shalom said Syria is an occupying power in Lebanon and there are currently some 1 million Syrians in Lebanon.

Shalom also called on the international community to stop ignoring Syria's control of Lebanon, the report said.

Shalom said he recently raised the issue with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in Switzerland, and with Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who was in Israel last week.

The foreign minister said he plans to do the same in all his meetings with heads of state. Israel's diplomats also have been instructed to bring the issue to the attention of officials in the countries in which they were serving.

Shalom's remarks come against the backdrop of overtures by Syrian President Bashar Assad to renew peace talks with Israel. But Israeli officials believe the action is only meant to reduce U.S. pressure on Damascus over any weapons of mass destruction and its behavior during the Iraq war.

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