Minister: Commission to Decide Syrian Timetable

Syrian troops will not withdraw completely from Lebanon until after an April 7 meeting between senior Syrian and Lebanese military officers to discuss their redeployment, Lebanon's foreign minister said Sunday.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud (search) said the joint military commission would set the "duration, time and location in these matters." He made the remarks after meeting with U.N. envoy Terje Roed-Larsen in Beirut, a day after Roed-Larsen visited Syrian President Bashar Assad.

It was the first definitive word on when Syria will fix a date for full withdrawal.

Roed-Larsen indicated he had extracted a timetable for full withdrawal from Assad during their meeting Sunday, but would not reveal it until he had met with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan (search) in New York this week.

Assad had told his parliament on March 5 that Syria's 14,000 troops would be redeployed to Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley (search) by March 31 but a complete withdrawal would be deferred until after later negotiations.

A senior Lebanese army officer said Sunday that some 4,000 Syrian soldiers had crossed the border into Syria since the troop pullout began on Tuesday.

"Another 4,000 soldiers in Lebanon's central mountains have redeployed to the Bekaa region. This is in addition to 6,000 troops already stationed in the Bekaa," the military official said on condition of anonymity.

He said the fate of the 10,000 troops remaining in the Bekaa would be discussed at the military commission.