updated 4/24/2005 8:13:11 AM ET 2005-04-24T12:13:11

Syrian troops burned documents and dismantled military posts in their final hours in Lebanon Sunday, before deploying toward the border and effectively ending 29 years of military presence in the country.

A few score Syrian troops will remain in Lebanon for a farewell ceremony Tuesday that the Lebanese Army plans to hold in a town close to the Syrian border.

In Damascus, the Syrian capital, a government official said: “Within the next few hours, all the troops will be out of Lebanon.”

“What will be left are those who will take part in the official farewell” on Tuesday, the official said, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

In the border town of Anjar, home of Syria’s chief of military intelligence in Lebanon, Syrian officials appeared to be going about their business as usual Sunday.

Ready to go
But at the Deir el-Ahmar base, Syria’s last major garrison in the Bekaa Valley, 15 tanks rolled on to flatbed trucks, ready for the drive home, witnesses told The AP. Soldiers burned papers, knocked down walls and loaded ammunition on to trucks.

Syrian troops had already vacated at least 10 positions in the northern part of the Bekaa Valley on Saturday. Dozens of trucks carrying hundreds of soldiers and at least 150 armored vehicles, towing artillery pieces and rocket launchers, crossed the border into Syria, witnesses said.

“Tomorrow everything will be over,” a Lebanese military officer said Saturday, speaking  to The AP on condition of anonymity, as is typical for military officials here.

On Tuesday, Lebanese troops at a base in Rayak, few miles from the Syrian border, will conduct a ceremony to pay tribute to the Syrian Army’s role in Lebanon, a Lebanese military officer said.

Afterward, the token Syrian force will leave, and there will not be a single Syrian soldier left in Lebanon. The Syrians entered Lebanon in 1976, ostensibly as peacekeepers in the year-old civil war. After the war ended in 1990, 40,000 Syrian troops remained in Lebanon, giving Damascus the decisive say in Lebanese politics.

Phased withdrawal after assassination
Syria began withdrawing from Lebanon last month following international and Lebanese pressure in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on Feb. 14.

In September 2004, when the number of Syrian troops in Lebanon stood at about 14,000, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution calling on Syria to withdraw all its troops and intelligence operatives.

Last week, Lebanese and Syrian officials said the remaining 1,000 troops would be gone by April 26.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan said last week he was delaying until Tuesday the release of a report to the Security Council on Syria in Lebanon so he could confirm the full withdrawal.

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