Syrian Foreign Minister Visits Lebanon

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem crossed into Lebanon Sunday for the first visit by a top Syrian official since Damascus ended 29 years military presence in its smaller neighbor last year, state news agency said.

Moallem drove through a northern Lebanese border point, National News Agency reported, and expect to hold his first meetings in the country his Lebanese counterpart, Fawzi Salloukh, in Byblos, north of Beirut.

Later, Moallem was to see President Emile Lahoud, Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

Moallem's visit comes amid strained relations between Lebanon and Syria as a result of the Feb. 14, 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. A U.N. investigation has implicated several Syrian officials in the murder.

Syria denied any involvement in the Hariri assassination that led to an international isolation of Damascus.

Prompted by the crisis that followed Hariri's assassination, Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon in April 2005, ending a 29-year military presence.

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