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Syria sets deadline for Lebanon pullout

Terje Roed-Larsen

DAMASCUS, Syria (CNN) -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has committed to a complete withdrawal of Syrian troops and intelligence services from Lebanon by April 30, according to U.N. envoy Terje Roed-Larsen.

The commitment was given to Roed-Larsen during a meeting in Damascus Sunday.

"This is an historic decision and should lead to Syria's full compliance with Security Council Resolution 1559 as regards its military forces in Lebanon," he said.

Roed-Larsen said the Syrians have already withdrawn 4,000 soldiers from Lebanon in the last several weeks, but the bulk of their troops remain in the Bekaa Valley, close to the Syrian border. These troops will be gradually reduced over the next three weeks, he said.

The envoy also said a special U.N. verification team would soon be dispatched to the region to oversee compliance with Syria's commitment to withdraw.

Roed-Larsen said this historic Syrian decision should give a positive impetus to parliamentary elections expected in Lebanon by mid-May.

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa said he hoped a harsh international climate surrounding Syria would improve, but he added that security and stability in the Middle East depends on implementation of all Security Council resolutions, including those that demand Israel withdraw from occupied Arab lands.

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