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Annan: No Timetable for Syria's Pullout

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Tuesday that the United Nations does not set a timetable for Syria to pull out from Lebanon.

Annan said he is sending his envoy Terje Roed Larsen to the region this week to discuss the full implementation of the Security Council resolution 1559, which called for the full withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon.

US President George W. Bush has demanded Syria pull troops out of Lebanon before the Lebanese parliamentary elections in May.

"The resolution requires them to withdraw," Annan said. "I cannot get into the date you are asking me to set."

"The resolution is clear that there should be full withdrawal," he told reporters, adding that after the discussion between his envoy and countries concerned, he will know better how to proceed.

He pointed out that it is the government of Lebanon instead of the United Nations that should undertake the responsibility of disarmament of Hizbollah.

"It is normal in every society to have different groups who may not hold identical views or identical positions," he said, adding "it is a fact of life that we need to accept."

Annan noted that Hizbollah should also be recognized as a force in the Lebanese society that one will have to factor in as the resolution is implemented.

He said the UN Security Council will decide whether or not to send in an international force to Lebanon, and he do not have such a mandate.

"Obviously, we do have our forces in Southern Lebanon, but they have a separate mandate which does not include the monitoring of the Syrian withdrawal," he said.

The United Nations now has nearly 2,000 peacekeepers in southern Lebanon.

(Xinhua News Agency March 9, 2005)

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