Syria says it will retreat from Lebanon under agreement that required it to be out by 1991


The Arab League chief said Monday that Syria will "soon" take steps to withdraw its army from Lebanese areas in accordance with a 1989 agreement.

The announcement by Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa came after a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

"Assad stressed more than once his firm determination to go on with implementing the Taif agreement and achieve Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in accordance with this agreement," Moussa said.

"Syrian withdrawal is part of Syrian policy and will see steps in this direction very soon," Moussa quoted Assad as saying.

The 1989 agreement signed in Taif, Saudi Arabia, ended the civil war that had started in 1975. Among other things, it called for Syrian forces, which had entered Lebanon ostensibly to separate the warring sides, to withdraw within two years to the eastern Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border.

In Beirut, tens of thousands of opposition supporters shouted insults at Syria and demanded the resignation of their pro-Syrian government in a demonstration Monday, marking a week since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Beating drums and waving Lebanese flags, those of their own parties and portraits of past leaders killed during the 1975-90 civil war, the protesters gathered at the site where Hariri was killed Feb. 14 in a bombing that the opposition blames on Damascus.

Some in the crowd yelled "Syria out!" and "We don't want a parliament that acts as a doorkeeper for the Syrians," competing with loud insults shouted against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Protesters wore scarves of red and white - the colors of Lebanon's flag - which have become the symbol of the opposition's "independence uprising," described as a peaceful campaign to dislodge the pro-Syrian government and force the Syrian army out of Lebanon.

It will be interesting to see if they keep their word this time.


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