Nick J. Rahall II
2307 Rayburn, Washington, DC 20515-4803
3rd District, West Virginia
(202) 225-3452

Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515-4803

April 24, 2001

Mr. Tom Harb
Chairman
American Maronite Union

Dear Mr. Harb:

Thank you for contacting me to express your thoughts about my comments during my recent trip to the Middle East, including a stop in Lebanon. I appreciate having your views.

You took exception to remarks I made in Beirut with respect to the armed Syrian presence in Lebanon. Let me expand on my brief statement, which may have been misconstrued.

I have long advocated the withdrawal of all non-Lebanese forces from Lebanon and the full sovereignty of the Lebanese government over all of Lebanon's territory. I urge the Lebanese, both inside and outside of government, to have a frank and continuing dialogue on the Syrian presence in Lebanon. This dialogue must also eventually extend to the Syrian government. There is a consensus that Lebanon should have friendly relations with Syria. A discussion between Lebanon and Syria on the issue of troop presence and sovereignty should be done in a calm atmosphere to avoid vindictiveness, which is not in Lebanon's best interest.

Whether Syria was invited into Lebanon, or not, the fact remains that the reason given for their presence, to help stabilize Lebanon at the end of the civil war, is no longer a good reason for remaining.

For Lebanon, the land of my grandfathers, I have long advocated that all non-Lebanese forces (including Israel's recent withdrawal from the south) should withdraw, and I want the return of complete sovereignty and independence through a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

Again, thank you for your inquiry, and with warm regard, I am

Sincerely

Nick J. Rahall, II
Member of Congress