- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 22, 2005

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syria lashed out at Washington yesterday for imposing “double standards” in the Middle East after President Bush called for an end to the country’s military presence in neighboring Lebanon.

But Mr. Bush’s call resonated with dozens of Syrian intellectuals and members of the tiny opposition, who stuck their necks out in the strictly controlled country by urging Damascus to recall troops from Lebanon in line with 1989 accords that ended the 1975-1990 civil war.

Mr. Bush, whose administration has been ratcheting up pressure on Damascus since former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed Feb. 14, said Monday that Syria must “end its occupation of Lebanon.”

He and French President Jacques Chirac later called for the immediate withdrawal of Syria’s 15,000 troops from Lebanon.

Syria’s state-controlled press said yesterday that Mr. Bush’s policy was “unbalanced” ” pointing to Israel’s continued occupation of Arab land despite numerous U.N. resolutions.

The Lebanese opposition and the international community have been increasing calls for Syria to leave, with suspicion falling on Damascus over the killing of Mr. Hariri in a massive bomb blast in Beirut.

Mr. Bush’s position “throws light on what is being hatched against Syria and the region,” said government newspaper Teshreen. “It demonstrates the American policy of double standards and preconceived ideas.”

The paper said it was “illogical” to insist that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 be carried out and forget about other resolutions in the Middle East that have not been implemented.

Resolution 1559, sponsored by the United States and France and adopted in September, calls for an end to foreign interference and the presence of foreign troops in Lebanon, in a clear reference to Syria.

“Israel has ignored more than 40 resolutions adopted by the U.N. Security Council, which, once implemented, would wipe out in one strike all the problems of conflict in the Middle East.”

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and occupied the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

Inside Syria, more than 130 intellectuals and members of the opposition yesterday petitioned authorities to implement the 1989 Taif Accords and clean up ties with Lebanon.

Lawyer and prominent human rights activist Anwar Bunni and former political prisoner Michel Kilo were among its signatories.

No Syrian official has confirmed comments made by Arab League chief Amr Moussa after talks with President Bashar Assad on Monday that Syria was ready to comply with the Taif Accords.

The accords call on Syria to set a timetable for total withdrawal from Lebanon.

Most Syrians “support brotherly relations between two independent states” with very strong cultural and family ties, Mr. Kilo said.

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