As the remaining Syrian forces officially began their final return home on Thursday, Syrian Information Minister Mahdi Dakhl Allah vowed that the troops would complete the pullout well before a 30 April deadline.

"The Syrian pullout may take place well before the end of the month, just as it did for the first phase that was due to end at the end of March and actually wrapped up in the middle of the month," Dakhl Allah was quoted by the Lebanese press as saying in an interview with US-funded Radio Sawa.

A senior Lebanese military official said the final phase had begun for the remaining 8000 troops in the eastern Bekaa Valley, where Syria has pulled back all its remaining forces in Lebanon.
  
"They have a timetable for the withdrawal and they will keep pulling out, unit by unit," he told the AFP news agency. "The process involves all army troops and intelligence forces."

Rapid withdrawal

 

Aljazeera's correspondent Abbas Nasir reported on Thursday that Syrian military personnel vacated a military checkpoint in the town of Maksab in the Bekaa.

 

Analysts expect Syria to finish
its troop pullout before 30 April

Nasir quoted sources as saying that troops had been ordered to quickly dismantle military hardware, load their equipment into vehicles and quit the checkpost.

 

They are heading directly towards Syria.

 

If Syrian forces in Lebanon stick to this pace of withdrawal, the pullout is likely to be completed before the target date of 30 April, with some security analysts predicting that the last Syrian troops will have left Lebanon by 20 April, Nasir said.

 

The Syrian presence in Lebanon had been at the core of the conflict between the Lebanese government and the opposition, which still remain at loggerheads over the formation of a new government and the country's electoral law.