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Annan Urges Syrian Pullout From Lebanon

25 February 2005 -- United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon by April, when Annan is due to present a report on the issue to the UN Security Council.

Annan said in an interview with Al-Arabiya television that the Security Council may seek additional measures against Syria if there is no compliance with a resolution passed last year demanding the withdrawal from Lebanon of Damascus' 14,000 troops.

"I would urge them [Syria] to do everything possible to comply so I can report to the [Security] Council that they have satisfactorily performed and therefore we wouldn't need to go for additional measures," Annan said. "But of course, if they do not perform, the council may wish to take additional measures."

The United Nations later said that Annan had not been setting an April deadline for Syria, nor had he called for sanctions if the Syrian pullout had not occurred by then.

Syria earlier yesterday said it planned to redeploy troops in Lebanon closer to the border with Syria.

International pressure on Syria to pull forces from Lebanon has grown since a bomb explosion killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on14 February. Many Lebanese have accused Syria of involvement, but Damascus denies any role.