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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 September, 2004, 16:33 GMT 17:33 UK
Syrian troops pull out of Lebanon
Syrian troops at a checkpoint near Beirut
Syrian troops have been in Lebanon for 28 years
Syrian troops have begun leaving Lebanon, two days after Damascus began moving troops from near Beirut as part of a "major redeployment".

A convoy of trucks and about 60 buses carrying soldiers crossed the border at dawn, Lebanese police said.

There was one piece of heavy artillery, but no tanks, police said.

The developments come three weeks after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution urging Syria to withdraw its 17,000-strong force from Lebanon.

Lebanon's defence minister has said Syria will withdraw fully only when the Arab-Israeli conflict ends.

Lebanese military sources had said up to 3,000 troops were being relocated from positions around the Lebanese capital, but there was no word about troops being withdrawn.

Critics of Syria's continued presence in Lebanon and its controlling influence in Lebanese politics have dismissed the redeployment as a sham to relieve international pressure.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is due to present a report to the Security Council on compliance with Resolution 1559 in two weeks' time.

The resolution - sponsored by the US and France - called for Lebanon's political independence to be respected and demanded the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country - a request repeated last week by US envoy William Burns.

Lebanon had rejected the resolution as interference in its internal affairs and said its close relations with Syria would not change.

Syria first sent troops into Lebanon in 1976, at the beginning of the civil war there.

Most of the forces stayed on in the country after the conflict ended in 1990.

Officials said Syrian soldiers began evacuating hilltop positions in the coastal towns of Aramoun, Chuweifat, Damour, Doha and Khaldeh, south of Beirut on Tuesday.

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Country profile: Lebanon
09 Jul 04  |  Country profiles

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