Syria Pulls out Hundreds of Troops from Beirut
Syria late Friday pulled out hundreds of troops from Beirut where they had been posted for years, heading to the eastern Bekaa Valley, an AFP correspondent said.
About 45 Syrian military trucks transporting hundreds of troops, equipment and furniture were heading east on the main highway linking the Lebanese capital to the Bekaa, he said.
Syria has been quietly dismantling positions or posts in Beirut and other parts of Lebanon since September as part of a long-awaited redeployment, which has become a controversial issue in Lebanon.
The recent Syrian army troop movements came amid growing questioning in Beirut of Syrian domination of Lebanon's political life and of the continued presence of 35,000 Syrian troops.
The Christian community has been the most vocal about such questioning, but Druze leader MP Walid Jumblatt also recently called for a Syrian redeployment and angered Damascus to the point that he and his political allies were declared by Damascus as "undesirables" in Syria.
Last week, Lebanese House Speaker Nabih Berri confirmed that Syrian troops had begun their redeployment in April and would continue it "very soon."
The last major Syrian movement in Lebanon was in April, when the army removed some 16 checkpoints and positions in Beirut and other regions days after Israel announced an army pullout from southern Lebanon that was completed May 24.
The redeployment of the 35,000 Syrian troops in Lebanon was envisioned in the 1989 Taef agreement, which brought an end to Lebanon's 15-year-long civil war in 1990.
The accord stipulated that, two years after Lebanon formed a national government, including an elected president and a constitution, Syrian troops were to be stationed only in the eastern Bekaa Valley and at other points decided upon jointly by the Lebanese and Syrian governments.
The accord also called for an agreement to settle on the size and duration of the Syrian military presence in Lebanon, but none of these issues has been resolved -- DAHR AL BAYDAR, Lebanon (AFP)
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