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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he expects Syrian troops might pull out of Lebanon in a few months. In the past Assad suggested that a total Syrian troop withdrawal needed to be linked to peace with Israel and expressed fear that Washington might use military action against his country. After last month's assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which sparked unrest that brought down the Syrian-backed government, Syria found itself under mounting global pressure. In an uncommon show of solidarity, U.S. Secretary of State Rice and French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier issued a joint statement, demanding that Syria withdraw its security and intelligence forces from Lebanon. According to U.S. government officials, the Syrian government exercises control over Lebanon's government through networks run by Syrian military intelligence. In addition to stating that Syria harbors and actively supports terrorist groups, the United States recently labeled Syria a "barrier" to Middle East peace and accused Damascus of destabilizing the peace process in Iraq by assisting anti-U.S. insurgents, allegations which Syria unequivocally denies.

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Outside Links*:

A Country Study: Syria

The Syrian Arab Republic Embassy

Syria accuses Israel of killing Al Hariri

Syria, at UN, Says Israel Behind U.S. War on Iraq

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