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3,000 Syrian Troops in Beirut Area to Head East

September 22, 2004|From Reuters

BEIRUT — Lebanon said Tuesday that Syria would redeploy about 3,000 troops from the outskirts of Beirut eastward toward their common border.

Lebanese sources said the two-stage redeployment would concentrate Syrian troops in Lebanon in a smaller area and largely restrict them to the strategic Bekaa Valley in the east.

Hours after the move was announced, sources in Damur, along the coastal road to southern Lebanon, and elsewhere said the Syrians were packing but had not yet moved.

The redeployment follows mounting U.S.-led international pressure on Syria to withdraw its 17,000 troops from Lebanon and stop interfering in its neighbor's affairs. But Syria is unlikely to loosen its political grip on Lebanon, where its allies are entrenched in the government.

It was unclear how many Syrian troops would remain in the Bekaa Valley and whether others would return home, but security sources said about 3,000 would leave their positions around Beirut.

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