National Post , Wednesday, March 19, 2003Countdown Section
Page: A13
Former Lebanese PM wants Syrians out next Democratic values could only benefit region, General says in Ottawa
By Robert Fife - Ottawa Bureau Chief

Ottawa: A former Prime Minister of Lebanon said yesterday the U.S.- Lead war to unseat Saddam Hussein could lead to Democratic Reform  throughout the Middle East.Michel Aoun, who called Syria-dominated Lebanon the "First victim of Terrorism," told the national Post that Georges W. Bush, the U.S. President, must move swiftly to pressure other non-democratic Arab regimes to reform after it ousts the Iraqi Dictator.

"We have dictatorships. We have theocracies. We don't have democracies and their values," he said. "Maybe the positive consequences of the war will be to change these regimes."Mr. Aoun, a former General in exiled prime minister who is holding meetings in the Canadian and U.S. capitals this week, singled out Syria as the principle threat to the region after Iraq. He said it sponsors the Lebanese-based Terror group Hezbollah and is believed to have chemicals and biological weapons.

"Syria is the twin of Iraq as a regime. Both are of the same nature and more than that, Syria is the hub of terrorist organizations," he said. "The Americans will fail if they don't spread out the atmosphere of democracy and stability. It is a necessity for the success of the Americans in Iraq because the states around will still harbour terrorists."

"Hezbollah is not a separate entity from the Syrian or Iranian regime. It depends on Iran for financing but all of its operations are controlled by the Syrians," he said. Mr. Aoun called on the United States to pressure the Syrians to remove its 20,000 troops from Lebanon for free elections in the country.

"The Syrians killed tens of thousands of their own people and in Lebanon... they are terrorizing people and eliminating all their opponents so it would not be good for the credibility of the United States not to act against Syria," he said. The United States has long considered Syria to be the real power in Lebanon.

It controls the Lebanese government and funnels Iranian arms to Hezbollah, while the Syrian army runs the drug trade out of Lebanon's Bekka Valley to earn hard currency.United Nations Resolution 520, which Canada supported in 1982, calls for withdrawals of non-Lebanese forces from the Middle East nation of 4.2 million.Bringing democracy to the region would also pressure the U.S. and Israel to negotiate a just peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mr. Aoun said."The united States, as the only super-power in the world, has a big influence on both parties to make them to accept a just solution based on justice and rights.

They have to reconcile the rights of the Palestinians and the right of security for Israel," he said.Mr. Aoun will meet today with Stockwell day, the foreign affairs critic for the Canadian Alliance, Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe and Bill Casey, the Conservative foreign affairs critic. He travels to Washington this week to meet U.S. officials.