Thursday, March 17, 2005

the syrians are pulling out of lebanon

BEIRUT, Lebanon, March 15 - The symbols of Syrian power began coming down in parts of Lebanon on Tuesday, as Syrian military intelligence agents emptied their offices in Beirut and Tripoli and workers took down an imposing portrait of Syria's president in the capital's seaside boulevard.

The retreat of Syrian intelligence, the arm through which Damascus controlled many aspects of Lebanese life, followed strong demands from the United States and an anti-Syrian rally on Monday that drew an estimated one million people - the biggest crowd ever seen in central Beirut.

Also on Tuesday, President Bush again called on the militant Shiite group hezbollah to disarm.

"We view Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and I would hope that Hezbollah would prove that they are not, by laying down arms and not threatening peace," Mr. Bush said Tuesday after a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan. He said he and the king had discussed their concern "that Hezbollah may try to derail the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians."

Hezbollah, whose officials declined to comment Tuesday on Mr. Bush's remarks, had organized a pro-Syrian rally of 500,000 people in central Beirut last week. The demonstration on Monday was seen as a reply from the anti-Syrian opposition.

Mr. Bush spoke after several thousand pro-Syrian demonstrators shouting "Death to America!" and "Ambassador get out!" had denounced American interference in Lebanon during a march toward the American Embassy. Lebanese police officers, troops and coils of barbed wire stopped the march just over a half mile from the fortified embassy compound.

Syrian intelligence agents packed up their files and furniture at their offices in beirut's commercial Hamra district, about two dozen Syrian agents left their office in a car and a van loaded with furniture and belongings. They were escorted by Lebanese police officers.

A short time later, a doorman hoisted two Lebanese flags at the entrance.

The intelligence offices in Beirut were the only remnants of Syria's military presence in the capital after the withdrawal of troops in 2000. Since then, the headquarters of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon have been in the town of Anjar, a few miles from the Lebanese-Syrian border.

now that the syrian military intelligence has left, the lebanese may (finally) start to put together a government based on the principles of 'false democracy.' you know; freedom, justice and all that.

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