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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 April, 2005, 09:15 GMT 10:15 UK
Syria withdrawal: Lebanese speak
Syria soldier waves before crossing Syria-Lebanese border
Syria used to have 40,000 troops in Lebanon
After Syria's withdrawal of the last of its troops from Lebanon, following a 29-year long presence in the country, the BBC News website spoke to four Lebanese about their feelings on the historic move.

Here are their stories and experiences.

"It's a small, but essential, step towards democracy"

"I think the situation is still fragile"
"I have no idea what will happen with the elections"

"I hope for a new future that will unite all Lebanese"

NADIM, 16, STUDENT

I feel the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon is only a small, but essential, step towards the democratisation of our country.

The risk of civil war was fabricated by the pro-Syrian camp to try to slow down the opposition drive

As for the elections, they are bound to be a crushing victory for the opposition, even though the pro-Syrians will intimidate voters and try to rig the elections as much as possible.

The opposition will hopefully win a majority in parliament and the next step would be the ousting of President Emile Lahoud and all his proteges.

The risk of civil war was fabricated by the pro-Syrian camp to try to slow down the opposition drive, but it is senseless and unfounded.

The people are now confident in the new government: All key ministries are in opposition hands (the ministry of justice and the ministry of the interior) except for the ministry of defence, which is in the hands of Lahoud's son-in-law.

I think the ceremony that took place for the Syrian troops was an occasion for the Syrians to tell their Lebanese counterparts they were not giving up on them.

But now the last Syrian troops are out of our country their regime will crumble.

In fact, it has already started.

JOUMANA SEIKALY, 29, ADVERTISING EXECUTIVE

On one level, we're all happy. The longest journey starts with a first step, as they say.

What we need is a clean break and fresh blood
But there is much still to be done and we are a bit anxious.

The situation is still fragile. People are tired. My family and friends inevitably end up discussing politics day in, day out. We can't avoid it, it pervades everything.

Mostly, I think people are optimistic, because a lot of the corruption that has been part of the government has been brought to light.

Lebanese demonstrators in central Beirut, 1 March 2005
The so-called Cedar Revolution galvanised Lebanon's young
If there is a civil war, well let's hope it stays civil, as in civilised and mature. Let's call it a debate, or a challenge, but not an outright outbreak.

I don't think many people could handle that, financially and psychologically. We're a scarred people and we're still licking our wounds clean.

Politically, there is a great deal of immaturity. I think of the young people who have been the life and soul of the so-called "Cedar Revolution" - or "Gucci Revolution" if you will - and what strikes me is how they repeat slogans heard at home when they were young.

I doubt many have really thought over their politics. This is one major area to work on - developing a political structure and a political mentality, separate from old family alliances and beliefs.

As long as the main politicians on the scene are still of the old days then I'm suspicious of so-called change.

What we need is a clean break and fresh blood.

Rafik Hariri's murder investigation has to happen - we all want the truth. When it comes out, I hope that we have the means to accept it, build on it, and deal with its consequences.

Also, I hope it will open the door to further investigations about the countless murders that have plagued Lebanon.

I'm expecting a huge turnout for the elections this year, which is again a step in the right direction.

But if the elections are held, lack of political maturity or clear political direction is something to worry about, or wonder about.

RASHA FARHAT, 34, ENGINEER

We are happy for the withdrawal, but at the same time we would like to keep good relations with Syria. Syria is the dominant country in the Middle East and our neighbour, so we have to work together.

We don't have to rush things, perhaps the elections should be delayed
Nonetheless, some situations have been abused by the Syrians - perhaps not in the government but maybe within the military and intelligence agencies.

It happened in business, too. I work in engineering and in many projects I felt money went to "the wrong people", if you see what I mean.

Any person who wants them to stay is not loyal to this country. You should not have foreign troops on your soil.

Still, while I'm happy they're out, we all face the same future. We have to collaborate.

People got angry in the aftermath [of Hariri's death] and we should let things settle. Let us be clear and functional, not reactionary all the time.

We don't have to rush things, perhaps the elections should be delayed.

I am from the south, I support Hezbollah - they saved us.

In my village more than 20 people were killed by the Israelis. Hezbollah saved us at a time when we were ignored by the government, so I would support them in any election.

I'm very optimistic. But I hate people who differentiate between Lebanon's different religious and ethnic groups. If that prejudice ever happened in government I would leave.

ABED ABDALLAH, 27, LECTURER

We never felt it was an occupation. Still, now that the Syrian forces have withdrawn it's good we don't have any foreign troops on our soil, because we should stand by ourselves as Lebanese.

I hope for a new future that will unite all Lebanese, whether Sunni or Shia Muslim or Christian or any other religion.

I hope it's a starting point for all parties to talk and have an honest dialogue.

As a Lebanese I didn't want to see any foreign troops in country but we should have asked them to withdraw in more polite way.

We need to serve the interests of other Arab countries as neighbours and as sisters and brothers.

Rafik Hariri
Some Lebanese are suspicious of investigations into Hariri's death
Some of the opposition hate the Syrians - many Syrian workers were killed or hurt in Lebanon because of hate created by the opposition. They were stereotyped.

Every time people question the opposition they respond with "look at all those who protested." They never mention those who marched for Hezbollah.

The opposition is not united with one goal, they all have different agendas. They joined together initially for one reason (after the death of Hariri) but now Syria is out they are splitting.

I don't think the opposition will get in fully. They think they are very powerful but, remember, most of those demonstrating were just there because of Hariri's death.

I think what happened in Iraq, this interference by the US, this will happen by Lebanon.

The US wants to service its interests, so why not use this new investigation into Hariri? I believe they want to direct the investigation the way they want.

I hope that nothing bad will happen after the elections. God willing, nothing will happen. The most important thing, the withdrawal, has been done.

But you can never predict these things. We will have to wait.

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