Reports: Syria to ask 6 months to make full withdrawal from Lebanon
Syria plans a six-month extra stay of its army in the Bekaa Valley and will make efforts that the upcoming Lebanese elections would produce another pro-Syrian Parliament, the Agence France Presse reported. This report came on Tuesday as Hizbullah was unleashing an enormous mass of Syrian loyalists on a demonstration in front of the U.N. Beirut House.
The protest was called to counter the almost daily anti-Syrian protests staged by the Lebanese opposition.
Syria will ask for the 6-month period of total evacuation in talks in Damascus with U.N. envoy Terji Roed-Larsen, pledging to complete the full withdrawal from Lebanon by October in full compliance with U.N. resolution 1559, the AFP and the Beirut-based An Nahar daily reported.
The Syrian government on Monday asserted for the first time in public that the two-stage army withdrawal would include the entire Syrian secret service, too. A Lebanon-Syria summit in Damascus has set the end of March as the deadline for the first stage, but failed to spell out a timetable for the final pullout of the second stage.
Lebanon's opposition leaders as well as the United States, France and Germany demanded an immediate one-go Syria evacuation.
Opposition leader Boutros Harb said the Syrian army and secret service should be out of Lebanon completely before the May elections at most to guarantee that the vote would not be influenced by the Syrian regime.
Syrian troops were seen packing overnight to begin the first stage of redeployment out of the central mountain ridge overlooking Beirut as well as northern Lebanon to the Bekaa Valley. However, on Tuesday little military traffic was seen on the roads toward the Bekaa Valley.