DAMASCUS, Syria - The Arab League chief said Monday that Syria will "soon" take steps to withdraw its army from Lebanese areas in accordance with a 1989 agreement.
The announcement by Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa came after a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad. "Assad stressed more than once his firm determination to go on with implementing the Taif agreement and achieve Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in accordance with this agreement," Moussa said.
Well, that is certainly good news, if it happens, but the Taif agreement was signed sixteen years ago and still has not been fully implemented.
Meanwhile the pressure builds in Lebanon:
In Beirut, tens of thousands of opposition supporters shouted insults at Syria and demanded the resignation of their pro-Syrian government in a demonstration Monday, marking a week since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Beating drums and waving Lebanese flags, those of their own parties and portraits of past leaders killed during the 1975-90 civil war, the protesters gathered at the site where Hariri was killed Feb. 14 in a bombing that the opposition blames on Damascus.
Some in the crowd yelled "Syria out!" and "We don't want a parliament that acts as a doorkeeper for the Syrians," competing with loud insults shouted against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Protesters wore scarves of red and white — the colors of Lebanon's flag — which have become the symbol of the opposition's "independence uprising," described as a peaceful campaign to dislodge the pro-Syrian government and force the Syrian army out of Lebanon.
Some protesters carried banners reading, "Independence," and chanted, "The government of puppets must fall" and "Enough blood, leave us alone."
The crowd was estimated in the tens of thousands, with many converging on downtown Beirut from all parts of the Lebanese capital. "It is my civic duty as a Lebanese to take part in this uprising," said Youssef Mukhtar, a 47-year-old engineer. "Enough bloodshed and disasters. It is the 21st century, and people should be able to govern themselves. The situation has become unbearable and we have to regain our country."
Many held pictures of Hariri and sang patriotic songs. Some protesters held a copy of the Quran in one hand and the cross in another hand to signify Muslim-Christian national unity. [emphasis mine]
Police and army troops in full battle gear stood guard without intervening, blocking roads with metal barriers. To prevent more potential protesters from reaching Beirut, security forces set up checkpoints on the northern and eastern entrances to the Lebanese capital.
There's much more: Read the whole thing here.
Bush's Iraq adventure was designed to destabilize the Middle East and it surely has. The drive for freedom is mounting and promises to reach overwhelming proportions. Unfortunately it is likely going to spark equally strong reaction. These are exciting and terrifying times. This is what 1848 must have been like as liberal revolutions spread across Europe. We must hope that the results today are better than then.