Syria and Lebanon say Syrian forces will pull back to border areas in Lebanon by the end of March, before both governments decide on a timetable for the troops to leave Lebanon.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Lebanese counterpart, Emile Lahoud said Monday in Damascus that the pullback would begin immediately. Syria's ambassador to Washington, Imad Moustapha said Syrian forces will withdraw from Lebanon in "less than two to three months."
The White House called the Assad-Lahoud statement a half measure, and said it is time for Syria to withdraw "completely and immediately." President Bush discussed the matter by telephone with French President Jacques Chirac and both leaders repeated calls for Syria to get out of Lebanon.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of anti-Syrian demonstrators gathered in Beirut Monday to mark three weeks since the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The Lebanese opposition blames Syria and its Beirut allies for the killing, but both governments deny involvement.