Chirac: Israeli should withdraw from Lebanon, Golan HeightsMay 30, 1998
Web posted at: 9:57 p.m. EDT (0157 GMT)
BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- French President Jacques Chirac issued a call Saturday for Israel to withdraw from both southern Lebanon and the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war.
Speaking while on a state visit to Lebanon, Chirac also said France would be willing to participate with other countries in a peacekeeping force along the Israeli-Lebanese border.
"Israel, like all other states in the region, has the right to full and complete security," said Chirac. "But Israel must understand that her people will not know security if there is no peace."
About 1,500 Israeli soldiers and another 2,500 Lebanese militiamen allied with the Jewish state occupy what Israel terms a "security zone" across southern Lebanon.
Israel has offered to leave Lebanon if the Beirut government guarantees its security from guerrilla attacks launched from Lebanon into northern Israel. Both Lebanon and Syria -- which, with 30,000 troops in Lebanon, is a power broker there -- have rejected that offer, saying a United Nations resolution requires Israel to withdraw from Lebanon unconditionally.
The French president said Saturday he was confident that if the Israelis withdrew, Syria would also remove its troops from Lebanon as a part of a comprehensive peace plan. Those troops were been sent in to stabilize Lebanon during its 15-year civil war that ended in 1990.
"I believe that once the Israelis have retreated as part of a global peace, the Lebanese army, along with the internal security forces, should be the sole upholders of the authority of the state in all your territory," Chirac said. "This would be a formidable challenge for your country."
Chirac also said Syria "has the right to see the Golan Heights returned," a move he said would help with regional stability.
Chirac also reaffirmed French support for Lebanon's program to rebuild from the destruction of the civil war. French companies are involved in reconstruction projects worth about $500 million.
The French president formally reopened the elegant residence of his country's envoy to Lebanon, heavily damaged in the war.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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