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Syria completes Lebanon withdrawal

  |   April 26, 2005 at 5:37 PM
BEIRUT, Lebanon, April 26 (UPI) -- Syria completed its military and intelligence withdrawal from Lebanon Tuesday, ending more than 29 years of a controversial presence.

An official farewell ceremony was held at the Rayak military base in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa valley attended by Lebanese army commander Gen. Michel Sleiman and Syrian chief of army staff Gen. Ali Habib. The two commanders pledged to continue cooperation between their armies in fighting Israel.

"We will keep on working together in combating dissension, sectarianism and terrorism," Sleiman said.

Habib said Lebanese-Syrian relations would remain strong.

Syrian troops entered Lebanon in 1976 to end civil strife, which was in its second year and continued until 1990. Syria started pulling out its troops last month in conformity with U.N. Security Council resolution 1559.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department called the withdrawal "historic" and said it was awaiting word from the United Nations on whether the pullout was in line with international resolutions.

"At this point, it looks in terms of Syria's military forces, that they are gone from Lebanon," deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said.

He noted "lingering concerns" about the continued presence of some Syrian intelligence assets in the country and called for their departure.

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