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683All Syrian Forces to Leave Lebanon by April 30

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  • Greg Cannon
    Apr 3, 2005

      All Syrian Forces to Leave Lebanon by April 30

      Apr 3, 12:32 PM (ET)

      By Inal Ersan

      DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syria has promised to withdraw
      all its forces from Lebanon by April 30 and will let a
      United Nations team verify the pullout, a U.N. envoy
      said Sunday.

      Damascus ordered the withdrawal, demanded by a U.N.
      Security Council resolution seven months ago, after
      coming under intense international pressure over the
      Feb. 14 assassination of a Lebanese former prime
      minister, Rafik al-Hariri.

      The U.N. envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, said Syrian Foreign
      Minister Farouq al-Shara had told him "all Syrian
      troops, military assets and the intelligence apparatus
      will have been withdrawn fully and completely ... by
      April 30, 2005."

      Roed-Larsen was speaking at a joint news conference
      with Shara after talks with President Bashar al-Assad
      in Damascus.

      "Syria has agreed that subject to the acceptance of
      the Lebanese authorities a U.N. verification team will
      be dispatched to verify the (full withdrawal)," said
      Roed-Larsen. A Syrian source said the team would
      report to the U.N. envoy.

      Lebanese opposition figures hailed the announcement,
      which fulfilled one of their key demands.

      Syria first sent troops to Lebanon in 1976, early in
      its 1975-90 civil war, but in recent years had reduced
      numbers to about 14,000 from a peak of 40,000.

      U.N. Resolution 1559, sponsored by the United States
      and France, demanded the departure of all foreign
      forces, the disbanding of all Lebanese militias and
      respect for Lebanon's political independence.

      "Syria by its full withdrawal from Lebanon would have
      implemented its part of resolution 1559," Shara said.

      The declared timetable means all Syrian forces will
      have left before Lebanon holds parliamentary
      elections. The polls were due to have taken place in
      May, but might be pushed back because of political
      turmoil since Hariri's killing.


      Lebanese opposition leaders have accused Syria or the
      Lebanese security agencies that it backs of
      responsibility for Hariri's death. Damascus denies any

      "The declaration... is a decisive positive development
      in the Lebanese crisis," opposition member of
      parliament Nassib Lahoud said. "We hope that it opens
      a new chapter in the Lebanese-Syrian relations marked
      by the highest level of cooperation between two
      independent states."

      Large opposition protests in recent weeks in Beirut
      have demanded the end of Syria's role in Lebanon.

      "I do hope that the agreement and understandings we've
      reached today in Damascus will give a positive impetus
      into Lebanon in the sense that elections will take
      place speedily and ... these elections should be free
      and fair," said Roed-Larsen.

      Shara voiced support for the elections, which he said
      should be held "at the time agreed among the

      Last month Assad announced plans for a two-phase troop
      withdrawal from Lebanon within the framework of the
      1990 Taif Accord which ended the Lebanese civil war.

      The first stage, under which all Syrian forces pulled
      back to the eastern Bekaa Valley and some crossed the
      border, was completed last month. More have left since

      Roed-Larsen said he was informed Syria had withdrawn
      4,000 troops and closed its security offices in

      Dozens of Syrian military trucks and some tanks on
      transporters rolled out of Lebanon Sunday, witnesses

      They said troops had evacuated seven positions in and
      round the village of Anjar close to the border. But
      the Syrian intelligence headquarters in the village
      and a large army base in an ancient castle were still
      manned by Syrian personnel.

      A Lebanese-Syrian military committee met in Beirut and
      Damascus in the past few days to agree on the
      withdrawal timetable and Lebanese army chief General
      Michel Suleiman met Assad in Damascus Saturday.