Syria and Lebanon agree to start diplomatic ties

Atleast 18 dead in bomb blast in northern Lebanon


Syria and Lebanon agreed Wednesday. to start diplomatic ties and exchange ambassadors for the first time since independence about 60 years ago, As 18 people were killed when a bomb exploded in northern Lebanon

The decision was taken during a meeting in Damascus between President Bashar al-Assad and his visiting Lebanese counterpart Michel Suleiman, presidential counsellor for politics Bussaina Shaaban said in a statement.

"The two presidents decided to establish diplomatic relations at the level of ambassadors, in line with the treaty of the United Nations and international law," the statement said.

Presidents Assad and Suleiman "instructed their foreign ministries to take the necessary measures in this regard to conform with the laws of the two countries," the statement added.

Syria and Lebanon have not had diplomatic ties since independence from French colonial power about 60 years ago but Assad and Suleiman agreed to establish relations during talks last month in Paris.

Wednesday's confirmation of the decision marks the first fruits of a landmark trip to Damascus by Suleiman, the first Lebanese president to visit Damascus since Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon in April 2005 ending almost three decades of military domination of its "sister" nation.

The Syrian pullout came two months after the assassination in a massive Beirut bomb blast of Lebanese ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, for which Damascus has denied any responsibility despite accusations by Lebanese anti-Syrian groups.

Hours before Suleiman flew in, a bomb exploded in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli, killing at least 14 people, nine of them soldiers, and wounding 40 others.

Tripoli bomb

Hours before Suleiman flew in to Damascus for the two-day visit, a bomb exploded in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli, killing at least 18 people, nine of them soldiers, and wounding 40 others.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack in the region which has seen both sectarian fighting and clashes between the army and Islamist militants.

At least 22 people have been killed in Tripoli in recent months in fighting between Sunni and Alawite gunmen in violence linked to lingering political tensions in Lebanon.

Lebanese security forces fought Sunni Islamist militants in Tripoli last year at the start of a insurrection by the al Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam group, which was based at the nearby Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp.

The army lost 170 soldiers in the fighting.