Middle East Intelligence Bulletin
Jointly published by the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon and the Middle East Forum
  Vol. 1   No. 9

September 1999 


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Hoss to Albright: Syrian Occupation is "Legitimate" and Will Last Indefinitely

Hoss and Albright

Hoss: Syrian forces will stay "as long as the government sees their presence necessary"
When U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Beirut on September 4, she made it a point to publicly declare that the "United States is committed to the full independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Lebanon." During a private meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Selim Hoss, Albright specifically raised the issue of the Syrian occupation, prompting a revealing outburst by Hoss. The presence of Syrian military forces in Lebanon, he said, is "legitimate in line with a decision adopted at an Arab summit in 1976 and a request by then-Lebanese President Elias Sarkis." He added that "Syrian forces will stay in Lebanon as long as the government sees their presence necessary."1

This brought a sharp response from National Liberal Party (NLP) President Dory Chamoun, who said that the presence of Syrian soldiers in Lebanon is "in the eyes of a considerable number of Lebanese . . . neither essential nor justifiable."2

It is clear that Albright and Hoss disagreed on a host of other important issues. "Hezbollah is hampering moves to achieve peace," said Albright at a joint news conference held after their talks. Hoss responded that "Hezbollah is resisting occupation. The Lebanese government and people support the movement and it will continue its activities until every inch of Lebanese soil is liberated from Israeli occupation."

In addition, Albright stated at the news conference that the issue of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon "must be discussed within the framework of final-status talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority," eliciting a sharp retort from the Prime Minister. "Lebanon refuses to provide permanent residency to the Palestinians living here. That is prohibited under the constitution. We cannot accept that this matter will have to be relegated to final status talks . . . we think we should be a party to any such talks."

According to the pro-Syrian daily Al-Sharq, Albright proposed a plan during their meeting whereby Israeli forces would unilaterally withdraw to the international border next December and January, the SLA would redeploy to Christian villages in the security zone, and the Lebanese army would take up positions in predominantly Muslim areas. The Palestinians would be resettled in these areas in return for significant economic aid to Lebanon (most likely a write-off of its massive debt).3

Albright also reiterated U.S. concerns about Lebanon's failure to prosecute suspects allegedly involved in terrorist attack against American citizens during the civil war.

  1 "Lebanon PM: Syrian Troops to Remain," UPI, 6 September 1999.
  2 "Répondant implicitement à la secrétaire d'état US: La présence syrienne est "légale," réaffirme le chef du gouvernement," L'Orient-Le Jour, 8 September 1999
  3 "Controversial statements," Al-Ahram Weekly, 9-15 September 1999.

1999 Middle East Intelligence Bulletin. All rights reserved.

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