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Syria issues peacekeeper warning -

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Syria issues peacekeeper warning

Broadcast: 24/08/2006

Reporter: Sally Sara

Syria has warned international peacekeepers against occupying its border with Lebanon and the UN is
concerned the situation could deteriorate quickly.


TONY JONES: Syria has delivered a blunt warning about the deployment of peacekeepers in
neighbouring Lebanon. It says it won't tolerate any international forces along its borders. The
statement further complicates the peacekeeping mission as the United Nations looks to Europe and
the Middle East to help speed up the operation. The UN is concerned that the mood along the border
with Israel has become extremely volatile and could deteriorate very quickly. The ABC's Sally Sara
reports from Beirut.

SALLY SARA: The commander of the existing United Nations mission in southern Lebanon is calling for
reinforcements. He's warning the cease-fire may not hold indefinitely.

MAJOR-GENERAL ALLAN PELLEGRINI, UNIFIL: I repeat, is rather tense, very fragile, very volatile,
because any provocation or misunderstanding could escalate very, very rapidly.

SALLY SARA: Now there's tension on another front. The President of Syria is warning he won't
tolerate international troops along the Syrian border.

BASHAR AL-ASSAD, SYRIAN PRESIDENT (TRANSLATION): There is no state in the world that would accept
to have on its borders soldiers that are not of its own nationality - unless there is a war with
another state.

SALLY SARA: But Lebanon is calling for calm.

FOUAD SINIORA, LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER (TRANSLATION): Is it not in Lebanon or Syria's interest to
be in conflict. The relationship between the two countries should be built on true and mutual

SALLY SARA: European diplomats met in Brussels ahead of further talks with UN Secretary-General
Kofi Annan on Friday. The EU remains reluctant to commit a large number of troops. But there is
some good news - the World Food Programme says the humanitarian situation is improving in some
parts of southern Lebanon. The WFP initially asked for $26 million to feed up to 500,000 people,
but now that's being revised. It's unusual for the WFP to scale back its appeals for assistance.
But the humanitarian situation is improving in some parts of Lebanon and the demand for emergency
food aid isn't as strong as originally thought.

PETER SMERDEN, UN WORLD FOOD PROGRAM: Now the bombardment has stopped, people have returned - most
of them - and it's only prudent and correct, both to donors and to the people in need that we scale
back our plans.

SALLY SARA: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will travel to Lebanon, Israel and possibly Syria and
Iran for further talks over the weekend and next week. Sally Sara, ABC News, Beirut.