With uncharacteristic openness Syria’s intelligence agencies made a very public exit from their Beirut office. Staff were seen loading equipment and furniture on to two pick-up trucks. This partly meets a key US and Lebanese opposition demand for an end to Syria’s influence in Lebanese life.
But whilst the banners of President Assad are rolled up Syria’s security services are keeping, for now, their headquarters in the Bekka valley.
The international pressure on Assad continues to mount though. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak made a previously unannounced trip to Damascus for talks on Syria’s pullout from Lebanon. Anti-Syrian sentiment has been rising there since the February 14 killing of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri. Syria has had troops in Lebanon for almost 30 years.
Not everyone is happy with Syria’s pullout out. Three thousand students marched on the US embassy in Beirut chanting “death to America”. Supporters of guerrilla group Hizbollah, which is supported by Damascus, were amongst the crowd.
Amidst all this the new pro-Syrian prime minister designate has the near impossible task of creating a national unity cabinet. This must present a new electoral law to the assembly before elections scheduled for May can take place.