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Damascus maintains influence despite military retreat

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Damascus maintains influence despite military retreat


Apart from abandoned buildings around Beirut, there seem to be no signs of Syria’s 30-year military presence.

After weeks of protests in response to Rafic Harriri’s assassination, Damascus withdrew its 15,000 strong force.

It appeared to bring an end to a controversial chapter in the country’s history – a move cemeted by the anti-Syrian opposition’s overwhelming victory just a few months later.

But the continuing wave of attacks against prominent anti-Syrian figures was proof for many that Damascus was not ready to give up its influence.

Telecommunications Minister, Marwan Hamdeh believes the Syrian pull-out is far from complete.

“All the positiveness of this operation was not displayed on the Lebanese….. Syria left its agents and militia and that’s all impeded on Lebanon’s progress,” he says.

Weakened by the attacks, the anti-Syrian opposition has collapsed in recent months.

Deprived of a parliamentary majority, it has been forced to meet the demands of Hezbollah and Amal,the two main pro-Syrian parties which have refused to give up their weapons.

The opposition’s also been powerless to prevent the pro-Syrian president, Emile Lahoud, from maintaining ties with Damascus.

Despite calls from prime minister Fouad Siniora, Syria’s still refuses to have a diplomatic representative in Beirut.

Syria defends the status-quo as resistance to western pressure.

Lebanese MP Marwan Fares says there is no longer any Syrian interference.

“There is just American interference with Lebanese matters and it’s they who are creating confusion,” he says.

But the real test of Syrian interference in Lebanon remains the investigation into Hariri’s death which lies in the hands of Serge Brammertz.

His initial findings suggest Syrian secret service was involved.

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