BEIRUT: The last Syrian troops were to leave Lebanon yesterday after 29 years, a senior Lebanese military officer said, as Damascus yields to fierce international and domestic pressure after the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri.
The announcement came as the largest number of Syrian troops to leave Lebanon in one batch vacated at least 10 positions in the northern part of the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon on Saturday night.
Under pouring rain, dozens of trucks carrying hundreds of soldiers and at least 150 armoured vehicles towing cannons and rocket launchers were seen heading to the Lebanese-Syrian Masnaa border point, witnesses said.
“Tomorrow everything will be over,'' the military officer said on Saturday on condition of anonymity. Lebanese military officers rarely speak on the record.
He did not elaborate but it appeared that the withdrawal would include the Anjar base in eastern Lebanon occupied by Syria's chief of military intelligence in Lebanon, Maj-Gen Rustom Ghazale.
The same officer had said earlier this week that Ghazale would evacuate Anjar by tomorrow.
The withdrawal of Syrian intelligence officers along with the military has been a key demand of the Lebanese opposition.
Hariri's son, meanwhile, said he will run in Lebanese general elections scheduled to take place by the end of May.
In an interview with CNN, Saad Hariri also said he had “full confidence” in a UN investigation into the Feb 14 assassination of his father.
“I do intend to run,” Hariri replied, answering a question about parliamentary elections set to be held by May 29. “I do intend to prove myself. I do intend to work hard. I do intend to achieve my father's cause.”
Syria began withdrawing its troops from Lebanon last month in the wake of Hariri's killing.
The assassination, for which the Lebanese opposition blamed the Lebanese government and its Syrian backers, threw the nation into political turmoil, driving out the pro-Syrian government and forcing Syria to begin withdrawing its troops.
Syria and Lebanese authorities have denied involvement in the killing. – AP
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