WASHINGTON – President Bush (search) said Friday that he's disturbed by reports that say Syria is failing to live up to terms of a U.N. resolution that it withdraw all its forces and intelligence officers from Lebanon.
"I've been disturbed by reports I read in today's newspaper that said that Syrian intelligence officers might still be in Lebanon," Bush said in the Oval Office (search), where he was meeting with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) has said he was considering sending a U.N. team back to Lebanon to check reports that Syrian intelligence officials may still be operating in the country.
"It's important for the international community to send a clear message to Syria that it must stop meddling in Lebanon," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "I think the world is watching Lebanon closely."
He said that Syria's long presence had established a lingering "environment of intimidation."
"We want to see those elections that are occurring now to proceed in a free and fair manner without any outside interference or intimidation," McClellan said.
"Syria has not fully complied with the Security Council resolution and the demands of the international community" to withdraw all its forces from Lebanon, the spokesman added.
McClellan declined to discuss details of Syria's alleged continued involvement in Lebanon, saying he wouldn't comment on "intelligence matters."
A U.N. team monitoring Syria's compliance on May 23 said all locations formerly used by Syria's military intelligence apparatus were empty, and it concluded that "no Syrian military intelligence personnel remain in Lebanon in known locations or in military uniform."
But Lebanese opposition leader Walid Jumblatt asserted earlier this week that Syrian intelligence officials had been spotted in eastern Bekaa Valley and central Lebanon.
"Syria needs to comply fully with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, and that means getting all their intelligence operatives out of Lebanon," McClellan said.