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Middle east

Syrian diplomats take office in Beirut

Latest update : 2008-12-23

Three Syrian diplomats are reported to have begun work in the first Syrian embassy in Lebanon, located in Beirut. Officials in both countries have said the respective embassies would open by the end of 2008.

AFP - Three diplomats have begun work at Syria's first ever embassy in Lebanon which is set to open before the end of the year, a government official said on Monday.
  
"The embassy's top diplomat, First Secretary Shawki Shamat, and his two-member staff reported to work on Monday in their offices on Makdissi Street" in the Hamra district, the official said, requesting anonymity.
  
In August Lebanon and Syria announced their intention to establish diplomatic ties, following a joint pledge in July by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Lebanese counterpart, Michel Sleiman.
  
Officials in both countries have said that the respective embassies would open by the end of 2008.
  
The Lebanese daily as-Safir quoted Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem as saying Syria's embassy would open "immediately after Christmas."
  
Beirut would soon inform Damascus of its nomination for ambassador to Syria, a diplomatic official told AFP on Monday.
  
Lebanon has not officially named the diplomat pending Syrian approval, but a diplomatic official told AFP that it would be Michel el-Khouri, Lebanon's current envoy to Cyprus.
  
Damascus has not nominated an ambassador for Beirut, indicating that the top Syrian diplomat in Lebanon will be a first secretary at least for now, the government official said.
  
Relations between the two countries have often been fractious since Syria was forced to withdraw its troops in April 2005 after maintaining a near 30-year military presence in its tiny neighbour.
  
The anti-Syrian parliamentary majority in Beirut accuses Syria of meddling in Lebanese affairs and of being behind a string of deadly assassinations of public figures since 2005.
 

Date created : 2008-12-23

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