Montreal, Canada - February 20, 2005

RCPL asks Prime Minister Martin to retract.

« La Syrie est au Liban parce qu’il faut maintenir la paix ».
This was the answer of the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr. Paul Martin, to a journalist question about the recent assassination of the Lebanese ex-Prime Minister, Mr. Rafic Hariri.

This statement is not only inaccurate, but also out of sync with the position of the United Nations and the international community at large. In addition, it marginalizes the opinion expressed by hundreds of thousands of Lebanese citizens who recently marched to express their opposition to the Syrian occupation for Lebanon.

It is worthy to remind the Canadian public opinion, as well as our Prime Minister, that Syria’s presence in Lebanon is not condoned by any official mandate, neither from the United Nations nor from the Lebanese government. The only term that fits the description of Syrian presence in Lebanon is simply “occupation” of a sovereign country.

In September 2004, the UN Security council issued ‘resolution 1559’, calling for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon and the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non Lebanese militias. The same resolution also calls for a free electoral process in Lebanon without any foreign interference.

To date, the Canadian government did not express any clear and direct support for the above resolution. To make matters worse, Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Pierre Pettigrew, avoided meeting with figures of the opposition during his trip to Lebanon whereas the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Terje Roed-Larsen, did consult with them this month. Moreover, many Lebanese citizens are still illegally detained in Syrian prisons under inhumane conditions, all cases of which the Foreign Affairs Canada are fully aware of. Letters from RCPL addressed to the Prime Minister and the Foreign Affairs Minister Pettigrew to that effect remain unanswered.

RCPL deplores the Prime Minister’s statement. The statement can be interpreted as a support from Canada to the occupation of Lebanon, which contradicts all values we Canadians stand for, mainly the respect of human rights and the promotion of democracy in the world.

RCPL requests from the Prime Minister Paul Martin to:

1.

Clearly retract his ill-informed statement which deeply offends the Canadian-Lebanese community. Return to violence in Lebanon should neither be tolerated nor encouraged by our Canadian government.

2.

Issue a formal and official statement supporting the request of the United Nations Security Council from the Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Anan, to urgently submit a report about “ the circumstances, causes, and consequences” of the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister, Mr. Rafic Hariri.

3.

Issue an official statement clarifying Canada’s position in regards to UN Security Council resolution 1559.

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