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News :: International
Lebanese protesters denounce Syrian interference
20 Nov 2004
Waving Lebanese flags and denouncing the Syrian military presence in Lebanon, thousands of students rallied at the National Museum on Friday as hundreds of police in full riot gear watched but did not intervene.
The atmosphere was tense after Interior Minister Suleiman Franjieh banned the protest last week, when he had said he would use "any means possible" to disperse it.

"This is a victory for us, as we were able to break the unconstitutional decision to ban the demonstration," said George Nakhle, a senior official at the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), which was the main organizer of the demonstration.

The demonstration included an estimated 3,000 students from the FPM, the disbanded Lebanese Forces party (LF), the National Liberal Party and the Phalange Party.

Streets were closed for kilometers around the museum all morning, but they reopened around 3 p.m. once demonstrators had dispersed peacefully.

"We are here today to mark the memory of Independence Day, and the independence that has not been fully attained since Syrian forces remain on Lebanese territories," said FPM student representative Roland Khoury. "This demonstration is a reminder that Lebanon is not yet a free independent country. But it will soon be one, and then we will be able to celebrate true independence."

"Struggle is the only way to build a Lebanon free from all Syrian tutelage," said Elie Chamoun of the NLP, predicting that, next year, "Lebanon will celebrate a real independence."

Opposition forces had called for the demonstration to mark the anniversary of Lebanon's independence and to protest Syrian influence in Lebanese politics and the presence of some 14,000 Syrian troops here.

"It is no secret that the Lebanese president has been appointed by Damascus since the end of the war, but recently it became flagrant," Hikmat Deeb, the FPM's latest candidate for Parliament, told The Daily Star.

"It is about time we take action and regain our freedom," he said.

"We want the Syrian Army and influence out of Lebanon right away," added Deeb, who failed to win a Parliamentary seat in the 2003 Baabda-Aley by-elections.

He also praised UN Resolution 1559, and many protesters held banners calling for it to be implemented.

"This resolution stems from the will of the international community and does not hurt Lebanon at all," he said. "All it does is call for Lebanon's independence and sovereignty."

Prominent opposition members, including some from the Qornet Shehwan Gathering, had warned the government not to use force against demonstrators, saying the world was watching.

Previous protests by the opposition had ended violently, with Internal Security Forces members using batons and water to disperse crowds and arresting participants.

However, while the government had said street protests would be illegal, ISF members seemed to heed Franjieh's instructions and use maximum restraint, despite some protesters' provocative slogans.

"We kept our word and let the demonstration carry on as it was conducted in a peaceful way," Franjieh said in an interview Friday with LBCI television. "This is a sign of goodwill toward the opposition."

However, he said the opposition should try to negotiate with authorities rather than expressing its opinions in the street.

"Opinions should be expressed through dialogue," said Franjieh. "Demonstrating this way is not a civilized way to show people's demands."

About 1,000 ISF troopers were deployed outside universities and at major intersections across the capital in anticipation of the protests, while hundreds of security members let 1,000 students from Sagesse University march and meet the central demonstration in the museum area.

"The authorities did not attempt to break up the demonstration for one simple reason," said Tony Nasrallah, press official at the FPM. "They refrained ... because they know they are under international observation."

He was referring to a Thursday statement by U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who warned the Lebanese government against banning the demonstration and said such a move would amount to a breach of international law.

However, roadblocks were set up to prevent protestors from moving into downtown Beirut to join another demonstration held by the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and the Democratic Left Movement, which organized its demonstration in defiance of Cabinet's decision to ban demonstrations.

"Our demonstration is aimed mainly at breaking the Cabinet's decision to ban demonstrations, because we believe in our right to expression," said Khodr Ghadban from the PSP, Chouf MP Walid Jumblatt's party.

The second demonstration took place in Riad Solh, near the Prime Minister's Office, with protestors holding banners calling for Lebanon's independence and sovereignty, and lashing out at the extension of President Emile Lahoud's mandate - an issue Jumblatt strongly has opposed.

Security forces had cordoned off the Cabinet's offices with tanks and other obstacles.

"The new concept of independence cannot come about with the huge imbalance in Syria-Lebanese relations," said one student representative of the PSP. "A correction in the course of relations between the two countries is necessary so that Lebanon can enjoy its true independence."
Daily Star
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UN Security Council Resolution 1559 (2004) to end Syrian Occupation
20 Nov 2004
The Security Council declared on September 2, 2004 its support for a free and fair presidential election in Lebanon conducted according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence and, in that connection, called upon all remaining forces to withdraw from Lebanon.

By a vote of 9 in favour (Angola, Benin, Chile, France, Germany, Romania, Spain, United Kingdom, United States) to none against, with 6 abstentions (Algeria, Brazil, China, Pakistan, Philippines, Russian Federation), the Council adopted resolution 1559 (2004), reaffirming its call for the strict respect of Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon throughout the country.

In a related provision, the Council called for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias. It also called upon all parties concerned to cooperate fully and urgently with the Council for the full implementation of all its resolutions concerning the restoration in Lebanon of territorial integrity, full sovereignty and political independence.


The text of resolution 1559 (2004) reads as follows:

“The Security Council,

“Recalling all its previous resolutions on Lebanon, in particular resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978) of 19 March 1978, resolution 520 (1982) of 17 September 1982, and resolution 1553 (2004) of 29 July 2004 as well as the statements of its President on the situation in Lebanon, in particular the statement of 18 June 2000 (S/PRST/2000/21),

“Reiterating its strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally territorially recognized borders,

“Noting the determination of Lebanon to ensure the withdrawal of all non-Lebanese forces from Lebanon,

“Gravely concerned at the continued presence of armed militias in Lebanon, which prevent the Lebanese government from exercising its full sovereignty over all Lebanese territory,

“Reaffirming the importance of the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory,

“Mindful of the upcoming Lebanese presidential elections and underlining the importance of free and fair elections according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence,

𔄙. Reaffirms its call for the strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon throughout Lebanon;

𔄚. Calls upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon;

𔄛. Calls for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias;

𔄜. Supports the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory;

𔄝. Declares its support for a free and fair electoral process in Lebanon’s upcoming presidential election conducted according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence;

𔄞. Calls upon all parties concerned to cooperate fully and urgently with the Security Council for the full implementation of this and all relevant resolutions concerning the restoration of the territorial integrity, full sovereignty, and political independence of Lebanon;

𔄟. Requests that the Secretary-General report to the Security Council within thirty days on the implementation by the parties of this resolution and decides to remain actively seized of this matter.”