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French Version

Syrian agents evacuate posts across Lebanon (Daily Star)

Syrian intelligence services continued to evacuate positions throughout Lebanon, abandoning two of their main intelligence headquarters in the Beirut late Tuesday night.

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The intelligence offices were the last remnants of Syria's military presence in Beirut following the 2000 withdrawal of army positions from the capital.

The intelligence post in the capital's commercial area of Hamra was cleared of furniture, office equipment and weapons.

Eyewitnesses said about two dozen Syrian agents vacated the office hours after trucks loaded their equipment.

The agents, protected by Lebanese police, drove off from the Hamra office. A short time later, a doorman hoisted two Lebanese flags at the entrance. A local resident said about 20 apparent agents left in a van and a car.

The Syrians have been occupying the second, third and fourth floors of the building on Hamra Street since Syrian forces returned to Beirut in 1987 to stop Muslim militia fighting.

Another post in Ramlet al-Baida area, also known as the Beau Rivage post, was also vacated late last night, where the Syrian equipment and furniture were loaded into three trucks, according to eyewitnesses.

Meanwhile, Beirut municipal workers removed a giant portrait of Syrian President Bashar Assad that used to hang near Beirut's busy seafront Corniche, a few hundred meters away from the Beau Rivage Syrian intelligence post.

Of all Syrian military forces in Lebanon, the intelligence agents dealt most directly with the Lebanese, setting up checkpoints and arresting people.

Outside the capital in the North of the country, four of the seven Syrian intelligence posts in the region were empty Tuesday morning having been evacuated late Monday night.

Eyewitnesses said intelligence personnel had been packing their equipment in the remaining three posts for a late night or early morning evacuation.

In the mountains surrounding Beirut in Aley, Bhamdoun and Hammana, Syrian intelligence posts were completely emptied by Monday morning.

According to some Lebanese security sources, the Syrian Army and intelligence redeployment to the Bekaa is expected to take two to three more days.

The evacuation of the Syrian intelligence service has been a key demand of Lebanese opposition, which orchestrated a gigantic demonstration on Monday of some one million people in central Beirut.

Imad Mustafa, the Syrian ambassador to the U.S., said Tuesday the 10,000 troops remaining in Lebanon would be withdrawn across the border once Lebanon's military and security leaders are ready to replace them.

"It will be as soon as possible, but not to create chaos," Mustafa added.

More than 4,000 Syrian soldiers have left Lebanon last week during the redeployment. Syria had pledged to withdraw from Lebanon on March 5 under Lebanese and international pressures.

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Beirut 16-03-2005
Leila Hatoum
The Daily Star

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