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
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will have been withdrawn fully and completely ...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
"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
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.