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Syria protests worry Lebanon, Williams says
Agence France Presse
U.N. Special Coordinator
for Lebanon Michael Williams - Archive
U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams - Archive
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UNITED NATIONS: Political upheaval in Syria, hit by months of opposition protests, is weighing heavily on neighboring Lebanon where it risks sparking inter-religious clashes, a U.N. official warned Thursday.

“There is a great worry in Lebanon about this,” said U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams, who raised the potential for “confessional clashes in Lebanon.”

“What comes after [in Syria] worries in Lebanon,” he said.

Activists say the Syrian government’s crackdown against opposition protests has left more than 1,400 civilians dead since mid-March. Thousands more have been jailed.

Ties between Syria and Lebanon are complicated by a lengthy and bloody Syrian occupation of its neighbor, where Damascus has exerted huge political influence. Syria only withdrew its troops from Lebanon in 2005 after three decades of military and political domination.

Williams stressed, however, that the situation remained calm along the U.N. line separating Lebanon from Israel.

“Remarkably, despite tensions and despite some incidents, that resolution has held very well,” he said, referring to a U.N. resolution that ended hostilities between the Lebanese group Hezbollah and Israel.

“While the cessation of hostilities has held well, there is no movement toward a cease-fire.”

Williams said the time was right for “a dialogue, a process to discuss the questions of arms, not only Hezbollah.”

Western powers frequently accuse Syria of arming Hezbollah militants despite U.N. resolutions banning such traffic. 

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 22, 2011, on page 1.
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