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Syria, Lebanon Formally Launch Diplomatic Relations


Syria and Lebanon have formally established diplomatic relations, six decades after the Mideast neighbors gained independence from France.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and his Lebanese counterpart, Fawzi Salloukh, signed a document Wednesday launching the ties in Syria's capital, Damascus. The two men called for greater cooperation in preventing terrorist attacks in their territories.

Moallem says the two sides will open embassies in each other's capitals before the end of the year.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanese President Michel Suleiman agreed to establish relations in July.

Syrian troops occupied Lebanon for three decades before Damascus was forced to withdraw its troops in 2005.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the establishment of full ties and said the move reinforces Lebanon's sovereignty and stability. He urged both countries to engage in constructive talks to ensure progress in relations.

Syria came under heavy Lebanese and international pressure to end its occupation of Lebanon after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Many Lebanese blamed Syria for the killing of the anti-Syrian politician, but Damascus denies responsibility.

The Syrian and Lebanese presidents also agreed in August to formally demarcate their common border as part of the process of improving relations.

On Monday, Syria sent an ambassador to its eastern neighbor, Iraq, for the first time in nearly 30 years. Their relations had been strained for decades while rival factions of the Ba'ath party ruled Syria and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP.

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