Last Syrian troops leave Lebanon
CBC News | April 26, 2005
ANJAR, LEBANON - After 29 years, Syria pulled the last of its troops out of neighbouring Lebanon on Tuesday.
The historic occasion was marked by a goodbye ceremony at the countries' shared border, attended by military, political and religious officials from both nations.
Military leaders inspected about 300 Syrian troops before handing out medals to soldiers from both countries.
"Together we shall always remain brothers in arms in the face of the Israeli enemy," Lebanese army commander Michel Suleiman told the Syrian representatives.
Officials also erected the first stone for a monument meant to honour the thousands of Syrian troops who died between 1976 and 1990, during Lebanon's drawn-out civil war.
About 40,000 Syrian soldiers stayed in Lebanon on a "peacekeeping mission" after the war ended 15 years ago, leading to accusations from opposition politicians that Syria was exercising too much control in the country.
The troop pullout came after prolonged street protests in Lebanon's capital of Beirut, as well as mounting international pressure over the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri on Feb. 14.
At the end of Tuesday's ceremony, the Syrian troops boarded buses to leave Lebanon.
The departure of the troops coincided with the arrival of a United Nations inspection team that will ensure all Syrian soldiers have indeed left Lebanon.
A Lebanese soldier stands guard at the border point of Masnaa as a bus carrying Syrian soldiers crosses into Syria. (AP photo)
The team is monitoring compliance with UN Resolution 1559, which called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon.
Syria was the only country with such a military presence.
It had gradually removed about 14,000 soldiers from the country in the two months since Hariri's assassination.
Another team from the United Nations is scheduled to travel to Beirut later in the week to begin an investigation into Hariri's death.