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Monday, March 7, 2005
White House: Syria completely out of Lebanon, dismantle Hezbollah

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 7, 2005
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:55 P.M. EST
Q Scott, the Syrian and Lebanese Presidents, earlier today, agreed on a
partial withdrawal of troops by the end of March, and then negotiating at a
later point for a full withdrawal. Is that -- is that satisfactory to the

MR. McCLELLAN: No, we believe it is a half-measure that does not go far
enough. It is time for Syria to fully implement United Nations Security
Council Resolution 1559. That means the complete and immediate withdrawal of
all Syrian military forces and all intelligence services from Lebanon. The
Lebanese people are showing their desire to live in freedom and sovereignty
and independence, free from outside interference and intimidation. And we
want to see the Syrian and Lebanese government respect the will of the
Lebanese people. The United States, like the rest of the international
community, stands with the Lebanese people as they work to build a
democratic future.

Q But why isn't it seen as a step towards progress, if they're -- at least
they're moving closer to the goal?

MR. McCLELLAN: Security Council Resolution 1559 was very clear -- it said
that all foreign forces need to leave Lebanon. The Lebanese people are
demonstrating in the streets that they desire to live in sovereignty and
independence, free from outside interference and free from outside
intimidation. The international community is speaking very clearly to the
government of Syria and saying, you need to withdraw completely and
immediately, and comply with the U.N. resolution. And we stand with the rest
of the international community in supporting the Lebanese people in their
aspirations to achieve that objective.

Q But the Lebanese leadership agrees with Syria in its own timetable, its
own way, saying, here's how we would like to do it. Syrian troops have been
in there for nearly three decades. What would a couple weeks or a couple
months -- what difference would that make?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's -- the resolution focuses on all foreign occupation
ending in Lebanon. We want to see the complete and immediate withdrawal of
all Syrian military forces and all intelligence services in Lebanon. This is
a half-measure that simply does not achieve that objective. We stand with
the Lebanese people. The Lebanese people are the ones who want a country
that is sovereign and independent and free from outside interference. And
that's who we stand with, along with the rest of the international

Q So do you believe it's illegitimate, the support?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this -- the agreement that they focused on was the '89
accord. We believe they need to focus on the Security Council resolution
that was passed last year, Resolution 1559, which calls for an end to all
foreign occupation of Lebanon, and which also calls for free and -- for the
support of free and fair elections, and calls for a sovereign and
independent Lebanon, where the Lebanese people have control over all their
territory. That's what the resolution states, and that's the resolution that
they need to focus on and fully implement.

...the war on terrorism is a comprehensive strategy that -- we are working
to implement a comprehensive strategy when it comes to the war on terrorism.
And that strategy is built on staying on the offensive to bring the
terrorists to justice, and keep them on the run, so that we are fighting
them abroad and not here at home. But it also means that we need to continue
to support the advance of freedom and democracy in the world. And so the
President will be focusing a good bit of his remarks on talking about the
hopeful period we're in, in the Middle East, in the broader Middle East,
where freedom is on the march and democracy is on the march.

... our strategy is -- a new way of thinking when it comes to the Middle
East. For too long we excused what was going on in the Middle East, or
turned the other way. And we have seen the results of that. Now we are
working to support democratic efforts in the broader Middle East, because
freedom leads to peace, and freedom is on the march in the broader Middle
East. There is great progress being made, but there are difficult times
ahead. And it's going to require a determined effort and a generational
commitment to achieve what we all share.
Q Okay. Now, my Syrian question is, you say that the administration demands
that Syria withdraw its troops completely and immediately from Lebanon.
Syria, obviously, does not plan to do this. How are you going to make them
do it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we're continuing to work with the international
community. You've seen comments from Chancellor Schr der and President
Chirac and comments from Russia, comments from Saudi Arabia, strongly
stating their support for the United Nations Security Council resolution
that calls for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon.
So we're continuing to talk about these matters with our partners, and we're
continuing to look at the way forward, if Syria does not act. We need to see
Syria act. They've made some commitments. We still view those as
half-measures. But we ultimately want to see them speak by acting to comply
with resolution 1559. And that's what we expect.

Q And everything is still on the table. All options are still on the table.

MR. McCLELLAN: You know the President never takes options off the table.
Q On Lebanon again, in 1982, the PLO was forced out of Beirut. We're not
talking here about the terrorist groups. What is the U.S. position on
Hezbollah and other terrorist groups in Lebanon? When you talk about all
foreign forces going out, do forces also mean terrorists?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's one of a number of concerns we have with regard to
Syria, that they're allowing their territory to be used by terrorist
organizations. We continue to have concerns about Syria's support for
terrorism. Syria needs to end its support of terrorism, they need to
dismantle those terrorist organizations, and that's our view.

Q But if Syrian forces leave Lebanon, should Hezbollah also leave Lebanon?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of Hezbollah, again, I think our views are
very well known in terms of what our views are toward Hezbollah. And you're
very well aware of those views, as well. But they are a terrorist
organization. And we believe that terrorist organizations need to be
Q Scott, one quick follow-up on Hezbollah. Does the President believe that
Iran's support for Hezbollah is continuing and is destabilizing what's going
on in Lebanon right now?

MR. McCLELLAN: Iran has continued to support terrorist organizations. That's
one of a number of concerns that we have when it comes to Iran. Iran and
Syria both need to change their behavior and stop supporting terrorism. They
need to start playing a more constructive role in the region, and they've
made some commitments in the past to do so. But they have not lived up to
those commitments. We want to see them live up to those commitments.

I don't have any specific information to share with you at this point
regarding activity in Lebanon, with regards to Iran. But we have been
talking about length about Syria's continued presence in Lebanon. Syria is a
destabilizing force in the region right now because of their continued
behavior that is out of step with the direction the Middle East is moving.
That's why we want to see Syria change its behavior and play a more
constructive role in the region.

Thank you.

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