COUNCIL OF LEBANESE AMERICAN ORGANIZATIONS
P.O. Box 661823, Los Angeles, CA 90066

Tel:  888 – 4CLAO89    FAX:  310 – 915 - 0197

E-mail:  clao@clao.com    Web:  www.clao.com

PR-020228
Massachusetts, February 28, 2002  
As the Syrian President, Mr. Bashar Al-Assad, undertakes a visit to the Vatican and the European Union, the Council of Lebanese American Organizations urges the hosts of Mr. Al-Assad to raise the question of Lebanon and terrorism with their guest.    Lebanon remains the victim of the nearly 3-decades old Syrian occupation that has ruined its economy, hijacked its decision-making, destroyed its institutions, and tarnished its reputation as a haven for terrorism. Syria, on the other hand, remains high on the US State Department list of countries that sponsor terrorism. To justify its occupation of Lebanon and its reliance on proxy militias that are out the reach of the Lebanese government, Syria is seeking to scuttle the international consensus on the war on terrorism by engaging in the futile semantics of defining terrorism. The irony is that Syria is the living personification of terrorism: One has to look no further than the Syrian regime, its brutal oppression of its own people, and its occupation of Lebanon, to comprehend the perfect definition of terrorism.  
The European Union and the Vatican must urge Mr. Al-Assad to:  
Withdraw his forces and secret services from Lebanese soil        
Officially declare that Syria recognizes the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon as  a distinct nation, and       
Establish diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebanon as two fully sovereign nations.   
In order for Syria to receive assistance from the European Union, the Syrian regime must publicly declare its renunciation of terrorism as an instrument of its foreign policy. It must also engage Israel in meaningful negotiations towards a final settlement, and abandon the policy of holding Lebanon hostage to the Middle East process.  
The time has come for Lebanon, the land of Moslem-Christian dialogue and coexistence, to return to the normalcy of life and to regain its place in the world community. The people of Lebanon have had more than their share of suffering, and the socioeconomic conditions under which they live today are simply prolonging their agony.  The Vatican has the moral authority, and the Europe an Community the economic power, to give back to Lebanon its sovereignty and independence.  Lebanon has always honored the basic principles of freedom and democracy upon which the European Nations have founded their very existence.

Long Live Free LEBANON