United Nations may send a verification team back to Lebanon following reports that Syrian intelligence may not have completely withdrawn from the country, Secretary General
Kofi Annan said.

“We are now receiving reports that there may be elements that are still there, and we are considering the possible return of the verification team to ascertain what is going on,” Annan told reporters.

A UN verification mission to Lebanon had reported on May 23 that Syria had “fully” withdrawn troops from its neighbour, in compliance with UN resolution 1559 steered through the Security Council in September by France and the United States.

The mission also said it had found no remaining trace of the Syrian intelligence services, but added that the clandestine nature of such agencies made it difficult to establish their complete withdrawal.

Annan said Terje Roed-Larsen, his special envoy charged with monitoring the implementation of resolution 1559, would deliver a message from the secretary general when he meets Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.

Roed-Larsen will “have discussions with (Assad) on developments on the ground and will report back to me next week,” Annan said.

Syria’s decision to pull all its forces out of Lebanon came after the February 14 shock murder of popular former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, blamed by many on the then Lebanese regime and its political masters in Damascus.

Hariri’s assassination, which sparked widespread protests that brought down the government in Lebanon in late February, also prompted the United Nations to launch an international commission to probe the killing.

Since the Syrian withdrawal, Lebanon has held two parts of a four-stage parliamentary election.

The election process was rocked by the assassination last week of a prominent anti-Syrian journalist, Samir Kassir, in a car bomb.

As with Hariri’s murder, Kassir’s killing was widely blamed on the pro-Syrian regime in Lebanon and Damascus.

The UN Security Council condemned the killing as “a pernicious effort to undermine security, stability, sovereignty, political independence and efforts aimed at preserving civil accord in the country.”