By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS – The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Friday a new Security Council resolution is needed to force Syria "to come out of denial" and recognize Lebanon’s independence by establishing diplomatic relations and setting their border. 
The United States, France and Britain formally introduced the draft resolution Friday in the Security Council. But it faces opposition from Russia, China and other members who say it is not needed and would constitute U.N. interference in bilateral Lebanese-Syrian relations.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton agreed the Security Council should not be involved in their bilateral relations. "But that’s not the issue here," he said. "The question between Syria and Lebanon involves the decades-long occupation of one country by the other, continued meddling in the internal affairs of Lebanon by Syria, and therefore questions of the extension of diplomatic relations here are critical to breaking through the denial that apparently still grips Lebanon."

"The border and the diplomatic relations are critical to force Syria to come out of denial that Lebanon is an independent country."

The backers insist the draft is a follow-up to resolution 1559 adopted by the council in September 2004 which called for strict respect for Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence under Lebanese government authority — demands that have not yet been fully met.

That resolution also called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, the disbanding and disarmament of all militias, and the extension of government authority throughout the country.

Syria withdrew its forces from Lebanon last year, ending a 29-year occupation after mass demonstrations that blamed Damascus for the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria has denied involvement.

Although its forces are out of Lebanon, Syria has not established diplomatic ties with Beirut.

The new resolution endorses a recent report by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that urged Iran as well as Syria to cooperate in trying to restore Lebanon’s political independence and disarm militias, the first time the U.N. chief linked Tehran to instability in Lebanon.

It noted the "close ties, with frequent contacts and regular communication," that Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrillas, who are listed as a terrorist group by the United States, have with Syria and Iran.

Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Fayssal Mekdad, strongly opposed the new resolution and urged the council earlier this week to stop interfering in Lebanon-Syria relations.

Mekdad said Damascus is open to discussing diplomatic relations "if our Lebanese brothers want to discuss it." But he said Syria will not discuss the most contentious border issue — the Chebaa Farms — until Israel withdraws from the area.

While the draft resolution introduced Friday does not deal with the U.N. investigation into Hariri’s assassination, Bolton told reporters he met this week with chief investigator Serge Brammertz.

Bolton reminded Syria again "that the Security Council said there would be serious consequences if Syria does not fully … cooperate with the investigation."