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French Version


Nasrallah speech receives muted international reaction

Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's fiery speech received muted international reaction with few voices renewing calls for an "immediate" pullout of Syrian troops from Lebanon. Washington shrugged off a massive pro-Syria rally in Beirut and instead reiterated its insistence that Damascus end its presence in Lebanon "as quickly as possible."

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Downplaying the demonstration in Beirut which attracted hundreds of thousands of people, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: "We welcome peaceful demonstrations by the Lebanese people."

He added: "We believe the Lebanese people aspire to live in freedom and aspire to control their own future, and I think you've seen that from recent demonstrations."

In a clear message to Damascus, McClellan said: "The Syrian government needs to respond to the aspirations of the Lebanese people and the demands of the international community."

Commenting on the demonstration UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said: "It's normal in every society to have differing viewpoints."

But he said: "The resolution is quite clear, they must withdraw. That is why I'm sending my envoy to sit with them and discuss the full withdrawal."

France did not react to Nasrallah's speech despite a specific request by the Shiite leader to French President Jaques Chirac to reconsider his position on UN Resolution 1559, which calls for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon and respect for its sovereignty.

Siding with the United States, senior officials from Germany, Israel and the European Union retorted calls for Syria to comply with 1559

After a meeting with Lebanese opposition leader Walid Jumblatt, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said: "We want a Lebanon that has good relations with its neighbors but can decide on its own fate on a democratic basis."

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and President Chirac issued a joint declaration Monday urging Syria to completely withdraw its forces from Lebanon as soon as possible.

Israel's Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said: ""We believe that the Syrians should implement Resolution 1559 - and the sooner, the better."

Meanwhile, EU Deputy Foreign Minister Nicolas Schmit called on the international community to maintain "pressure on all sides with the aim of a complete and immediate implementation of Resolution 1559."

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Beirut 09-03-2005
Hassan Nasser
The Daily Star



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