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Neighbours agree to establish diplomatic ties

Lebanon's foreign minister said he expects diplomatic ties with Syria to be

fully established and ambassadors to be exchanged within two months.

Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh said the Cabinet will give its approval on the

diplomatic ties on Thursday. Later, it will issue a separate decree for an

embassy in Syria, he said.

Mr Salloukh spoke two days after the presidents of Lebanon and Syria agreed to

establish full diplomatic ties for the first time since the two countries gained

independence from France more than 60 years ago.

The two countries also agreed to negotiate the demarcation of their border, a

longtime demand of the Lebanese as they seek to normalise relations with their

long dominant larger neighbour.

Once formal approval has been made by both countries, their foreign ministers

will work out an agreement finalizing the deal, Mr Salloukh said. He said he

expected that to take one to two months.

The agreements on diplomatic ties and the border were announced during a

landmark visit by President Michel Suleiman to Damascus for talks with Syrian

President Bashar Assad. It was the first visit by a Lebanese head of state in

three years.

Syria and Lebanon have not had official diplomatic ties since they became

independent from France in the 1940s, and there have not been any official

attempts to define the border.

Many Lebanese saw that as a sign Syria did not recognise Lebanon's sovereignty

and harboured designs to dominate it.

``The Lebanese-Syrian summit was meant to re-establish brotherly and genuine

relations between the two countries,'' Mr Suleiman said in a statement released

by his office.

Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, who has long accused Syria of interfering in

Lebanon's internal politics, has praised the decision on diplomatic ties.

Mr Suleiman's visit to Damascus was ``important on the road to building equal

and genuine Lebanese-Syrian relations,'' Mr Saniora said at a Cabinet meeting on


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