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Syria Opens Formal Diplomatic Ties with Lebanon

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has issued a decree formally establishing diplomatic ties with next-door neighbor Lebanon.

The decree was announced Tuesday by the official Syrian news agency. It calls for the creation of a diplomatic embassy at the ambassador level in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.

Mr. Assad and Lebanese President Michel Suleiman agreed to establish relations back in August, during talks in Paris with French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy. The two countries have not had embassies in each other's capitals since they both gained independence from France more than 60 years ago.

Relations between Damascus and Beirut have been strained since the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Syria was blamed for Hariri's murder, and withdrew its troops from Lebanon a few months later under international pressure, ending a three-decade long occupation.

Syria had denied any involvement in Hariri's death.

During Mr. Suleiman's official visit to Damascus in August, he and Mr. Assad also agreed to formally demarcate the Syrian-Lebanese border as part of the process of improving relations.

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