NICOSIA Ñ Syria plans to again redeploy its military in neighboring
Lebanon and could withdraw up to 4,000 soldiers from the country.
Officials said the details of the redeployment were discussed on Tuesday
during military cooperation talks between Lebanese and Syrian commanders in
Beirut. A joint delegation of Lebanese and Syrian commanders also briefed
Lebanese President Emile Lahoud of the Syrian deployment plans.
"Talks during both meetings dealt with cooperation and coordination
between the two armies including redeployment of some Syrian army units
serving in Lebanon according to the defensive and security requirements,"
the official Syrian news agency SANA said.
The agency did not provide details of the deployment, but officials said
up to 4,000 troops would be withdrawn from the northern area of Batroun.
This is the second time in less than three years that Syria has announced a
redeployment of forces in Lebanon.
The deployment began on Wednesday and is expected to end over the
weekend. Batroun is mostly populated by Christians. Syrian military
positions in Mount Lebanon are also expected to be dismantled.
But Syrian troops are expected to maintain their positions along the
highway that links the capital of Beirut to the northern city of Tripoli. On
Wednesday, about 40 Syrian military trucks were seen leaving Batroun for
Western diplomatic sources said the Syrian redeployment was in response
to U.S. pressure. Congress wants to impose additional sanctions on Damascus
unless it ends the harboring of groups deemed as terrorists and withdraws
In 2001, Syria withdrew an estimated 6,000 soldiers from the Beirut
area. Most of them were relocated to the Bekaa Valley, along the
Lebanese-Syrian border, where Syrian troops and bases are concentrated.
About 20,000 Syrian troops are said to be deployed in Lebanon, with
thousands of troops brought into the country in April 2002. Western
diplomatic sources said most of them are in the area of the Bekaa Valley and
The Syrian news agency said the redeployment plans comes within the
framework of a 1989 Taif agreement for the removal of Syrian troops from
Lebanon. The Syrian military delegation to Lebanon was led by Syrian Chief
of Staff Lt. Gen. Hassan Turkmeni.