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Syria intel pulling out of Beirut

Massive protest marks former PM's death


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Anti-Syrian protesters flood the streets of Beirut.

Syria and Lebanon announce the pullback of Syrian troops.

The complex relationship between Lebanon and Syria.
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BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- Under pressure from the United States, Europe and significant portion of Lebanon's populace, Syrian intelligence units Tuesday were in the process of leaving Beirut, a Lebanese army source told CNN.

Witnesses said two pick-up trucks were being loaded at Syrian intelligence headquarters in the Lebanese capital's Ramlet al-Baida district, Reuters reported.

Pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his late father, former President Hafez Assad, were taken down from around the building as a road leading to the area was cut off, Reuters said.

In the Hamra district of Beirut, furniture from a Syrian intelligence office was being loaded into three trucks, The Associated Press reported.

Lebanese police blocked the road, and two agents sat at the entrance of the building amid the chairs and tables ready to be loaded, AP said.

A policeman at the scene said some Syrian agents have already left and the others were on their way out.

The move follows Monday's mass opposition rally in central Beirut and coincides with a visit to Damascus by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Mubarak, whose trip Tuesday was not announced in advance, discussed the situation in Lebanon with his Syrian counterpart.

Meanwhile Tuesday about 3,000 pro-Syrian students chanting "Death to America" marched on the U.S. embassy near Beirut to denounce what they said was U.S. interference in Lebanon.

Waving Lebanese flags, the crowd chanted: "Ambassador leave, keep our country free," in reference to Washington's envoy to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman.

The U.S. has led international pressure that forced Syria this month to announce a two-stage pullout from Lebanon.

"Don't interfere, leave us alone, we don't want your fake democracy that we saw...in Iraq...through your massacres and human rights breaches there...and in Palestine through your support to Israeli massacres," one speaker said, Reuters reported.

Lebanese soldiers watched the rally from rooftops of surrounding buildings, but there were no clashes with protesters.

The march was organized by Syrian-backed political parties including the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah -- an official party in Lebanon, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel.

It follows huge rival rallies over the past month by loyalists and opponents of Syria's dominant role in Lebanon.

On Monday, hundreds of thousands of people turned out for the rally marking one month since the assassination for former prime minister Rafik Hariri. (Full story)

Organizers said it was the largest opposition demonstration since Hariri was killed February 14. It outnumbered a pro-Syrian counter-demonstration organized last week by Hezbollah.

Hariri was the chief opposition figure in Lebanon who spearheaded the push for Syrian troops and intelligence officers to leave Lebanon. His death triggered huge daily protests by his supporters, after which the pro-Syrian Lebanese government resigned.

A U.N.-appointed team which has been investigating the Hariri assassination finished its work on Tuesday and, according to a U.N. spokesman, hopes to complete a report some time next week.

Last week, Syria began pulling its 14,000 troops to the Bekaa Valley near the border, and vowed to bring all the troops and intelligence officials across the border into Syria later on.

On Sunday, U.N. envoy Terje Roed-Larsen said Syria gave a timetable for the withdrawal of all its troops and intelligence agents from Lebanon.

Syrian officials say they were following U.N. Resolution 1559 as well as the Taif Accord, signed in 1989, which legitimized Syria's presence in Lebanon at the end of a bitter civil war there but called for a later withdrawal.

But U.S. President George W. Bush and other world leaders have said Syria must immediately pull all its forces from Lebanon.

Resolution 1559 also calls for Lebanon to disband militia groups, including Hezbollah. The Taif Accord allowed Hezbollah to remain in place.

Hariri's assassination also led to Prime Minister Omar Karami's resignation. But he was renominated as prime minister following last week's massive pro-Syria demonstration organized by Hezbollah.

Many Arabs see Hezbollah as heroic for helping drive Israeli forces from Lebanon. Israel pulled its troops from southern Lebanon in 2000.

Hezbollah has carried out numerous terrorist attacks against civilians and is listed by the United States and Israel as a terrorist organization. It remains an official party in Lebanon.

U.S. officials have called on both Lebanon and Syria to halt support for Hezbollah.

CNN Beirut Bureau Chief Brent Sadler contributed to this report



Copyright 2005 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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