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INTERNATIONAL Syria agrees to move troops in Lebanon closer to Syrian border



Published: Fri, February 25, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) -- Syria said Thursday it will begin withdrawing its troops in Lebanon closer to its own border, a move designed to blunt international demands for a complete pullout and to ease a groundswell of anti-Syrian sentiment.

But a dissatisfied United States said the move was not enough and demanded a full withdrawal from the Mideast nation.

"This needs to happen immediately," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said. A resolution by the U.N. Security Council "calls in clear, unequivocal terms for all foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon."

Both Syria and Lebanon's Damascus-allied government gave no timetable, indicating the troops would not leave Lebanon at this stage and that the withdrawal toward the border would be on their own terms.

The two countries don't want to seem to be caving in to a U.N. Security Council resolution in September that effectively called on Syria to withdraw all its forces from Lebanon and to end its political interference.

While the redeployment promised Thursday falls well short of the U.N. demands, it was still a significant attempt to ease pressure that has been building since the Feb. 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut.

There was no sign Thursday night of any movement among Syria's 15,000 troops in Lebanon.




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