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Riyadh backs calls for Syria to pull out of Lebanon

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Riyadh backs calls for Syria to pull out of Lebanon

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Saudi Arabia has added its voice to growing demands for Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad flew to the Saudi capital Riyadh for talks with Crown Prince Abdullah. Abdullah, an ally of the United States, told Assad that “Syria must start withdrawing soon, otherwise Saudi-Syrian relations will go through difficulties”. Damascus has been facing growing calls to end its military and political dominance of its neighbour since the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri last month, which was blamed by some on Syria. Pressure grew on Damascus on Wednesday, when ally Russia threw its weight behind the pullout campaign. At a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, delegates said they preferred opting for quiet diplomacy, urging Syria to withdraw without specifying when. On Beirut’s main Martyrs Square, demonstrations continue by the opposition demanding the immediate withdrawal of Syria’s 14,000 troops. Damascus has made clear it will not leave before a general election planned for May.