DAMASCUS, March 12: Syrian President Bashar al Assad has agreed to remove all his military and intelligence personnel from Lebanon, a UN envoy said on Saturday, adding that details of a timetable would be given to the UN secretary general next week.

The president has committed to withdrawing all troops and intelligence services from Lebanon in fulfilment of Security Council Resolution 1559, envoy Terje Roed-Larsen said in a statement after talks with Mr Assad in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.

I will present to Mr Annan further details of the timetable for a complete Syrian pullout from Lebanon on my arrival in New York early next week.

But he did not disclose a timeframe for the final phase of what he said would be a two-stage manoeuvre.

For its part, the Syrian state news agency SANA confirmed that an understanding had been reached to withdraw the troops, though it did not mention the intelligence personnel.

The two parties reached an understanding under which Syrian forces will withdraw from Lebanon in two stages, SANA said, without giving a date for the final step.

In a first stage, all Syrian forces will redeploy to the Bekaa Valley before the end of March, and a good part of those forces will re-enter Syria. In a second stage, the remaining forces will withdraw completely.

Mr Annan had sent Mr Roed-Larsen to secure a firm date for a complete pullout by Syria.

Resolution 1559, passed by the Security Council last year and co-sponsored by France and the United States, calls for Syrias withdrawal as well as the disarming of militant groups like Hezbollah.

Mr Roed-Larsens meeting with President Assad came after convoys of Syrian troops had already returned home on Saturday in a partial pullout of the 14,000-strong force in Lebanon.

Of his agreement with Mr Assad, the envoy said: The first stage will see the relocation of all military forces and intelligence apparatus to the Bekaa valley by the end of March.

Further, a significant number of these Syrian forces, including intelligence (personnel), will be withdrawn from Lebanon into Syria during this stage.

The second stage will lead to a complete and full withdrawal of all Syrian military personnel, assets and intelligence apparatus, Mr Roed-Larsen said in a statement in Beirut.

The envoy travelled to Syria from Beirut, where he expressed his condolences on Friday to the family of slain Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.AFP


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