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Bush tells Syria to leave Lebanon

March 2, 2005 at 3:49 PM

WASHINGTON, March 2 (UPI) -- President Bush bluntly told Syria Wednesday to remove its troops and intelligence operatives from Lebanon.

Syrian forces, in Lebanon since the mid-1970s, must leave to ensure democracy can take hold and grow without outside interference, he said, and he applauded a similar joint statement Tuesday by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier.

"The world is speaking with one voice when it comes to making sure that democracy has a chance to flourish in Lebanon and throughout the greater Middle East," Bush added.

The president's message was the latest in a string of declarations of approbation from Washington and other world capitals concerning Syria's presence in Lebanon following the assassination two weeks ago of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Hariri was opposed to the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon and Syrian influence in Lebanese politics. No one has been identified as being responsible for the assassination, but many Lebanese suspect Syria was involved.

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