Frank Hesske on Monday said the EU was unlikely to sign the Association Agreement, which will widen Syrian access to its markets, until Syria complies with a UN resolution demanding an end to foreign meddling in Lebanon.

"I don’t see how we could consider signature earlier than…fulfillment of these two conditions: withdrawal of troops and intelligence services and the issue of what we really see on the ground free transparent elections or not," Hesske said.

The EU precondition came despite a Syrian pledge to the United Nations to end its 29-year military and intelligence presence in Lebanon by the end of April.

Pullout

Aljazeera reported on Monday that the Syrian-Lebanese military committee has fixed 7 April as the date marking the beginning of total Syrian troop withdrawal from Lebanon.

Aljazeera correspondent in Beirut said the Syrian troops had already evacuated seven military positions in central Bekaa valley and headed for Syria.

But the EU ambassador said the EU would want to ensure that Syria was not interfering in Lebanese parliamentary elections due in May, which anti-Syrian opposition politicians believe will give them a majority in a chamber now dominated by allies of Damascus.

"I don’t see how we could consider signature earlier than…fulfillment of these two conditions: withdrawal of troops and intelligence services and the issue of what we really see on the ground free transparent elections or not"

Frank Hesske
EU ambassador

Syria says it supports free elections in Lebanon.

"The objective of such an Association Agreement is to bring both parties much closer together, so…you are very much interested that you are cooperating…with a partner who is behaving in a way which is acceptable for international law," Hesske said.

Syrian hopes

Syria had hoped the EU pact would counterbalance sanctions imposed last year by the US, which demanded Syria quit backing anti-Israeli groups, stop foreign fighters crossing its border to fight US troops in Iraq, and pull out of Lebanon.

The agreement, which the EU and Syria initiated in October, will give Damascus greater access to EU markets in exchange for progress in areas such as democracy and human rights.

Syria boycotted a hearing in the European Parliament last week on whether to agree the pact because the chamber had invited Farid Ghadry, a US-based Syrian opposition figure.