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US And Saudis Want Syria Out Of Lebanon

From the LA Times, Washington Post News Service:

USS Cole

US-Saudi effort seeks to end Syrian influence in Lebanon

By Robin Wright

March 02, 2008

Washington: The United States and Saudi Arabia have launched a joint campaign to pressure Syria to end its political interference in Lebanon, including the US deployment of the USS Cole and two other warships off the Lebanese coast, according to US and Arab officials.

The new military, economic and diplomatic steps include the toughest actions taken by the Bush administration against the regime of President Bashar Al Assad, such as a recent presidential executive order allowing sanctions against Syrian officials meddling in Lebanon and a member of Bashar’s family.

Saudi Arabia is withdrawing its ambassador from Damascus and pressed for an Arab League meeting, to be held next week, to discuss the political vacuum in Lebanon brought on by its inability to elect a new president, US officials said…

President Bush and King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz first discussed a joint effort on Syria during the president’s trip to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in January…

Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Thursday that the USS Cole, a guided missile destroyer, and two other ships will remain in the eastern Mediterranean “for a while. … It does signal that we’re engaged, we’re going to be in the vicinity and that’s a very, very important part of the world”…

The presence of the three warships has also sparked anger from Hezbollah and suspicions in the Lebanese media about US plans, even though the State Department said the ships are about 100km offshore – well beyond the 16km limit of Lebanese territorial waters.

“The American move threatens the stability of Lebanon and the region and is an attempt to spark tension,” Hassan Fadlallah, a Hezbollah member of parliament, told Reuters…

This news may help explain this earlier report, from Gulfnews:

Lebanon unrest fears rise

March 02, 2008

Beirut: Saudi Arabia and Kuwait advised their citizens in Lebanon to leave the country immediately on Saturday as Syria accused the United States of prolonging the political crisis in its neighbour by deploying a warship off the country’s coast.

A government source in Beirut said the Lebanese government had confirmed the news with the Saudi embassy after several Saudi nationals said they received a text message with the advice. One Saudi said he was told by the embassy that women and children in particular were advised to leave within 48 hours.

“Embassy officials confirmed that they were asking Saudi citizens to be vigilant while travelling in Lebanon or leave the country if possible,” said the government official.

The source said the security situation in Lebanon – caught in a political deadlock over the election of its president – was the reason for the Saudi advisory. The US said on Thursday it deployed the USS Cole off the Lebanese coast because it was concerned about the political situation in Lebanon, provoking fierce criticism from Hezbollah and Syria.

Several Kuwaitis said they also received messages telling them to leave immediately. The source said he had no official information on that. There was conflicting news on whether the Kuwaiti embassy had issued any warnings…

Of course none of this makes any sense.

After all, Nancy Pelosi has spoken in person with Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad. So everything must have been settled already.

Still, things could get interesting.

This article was posted by Steve on Saturday, March 1st, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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