Syria, Lebanon agree to establish diplomatic ties

DAMASCUS, Syria -- Syria and Lebanon agreed Wednesday to establish full diplomatic relations for the first time, taking a step toward healing tensions that have fueled decades of turmoil in Lebanon.

Many Lebanese had long seen Damascus' refusal of ties as proof it had not given up claims that its smaller neighbor is part of Syrian territory and still aimed to dominate Lebanon. The deal is a significant symbolic victory for them, acknowledging Lebanon as an independent state.

Syria controlled Lebanon for nearly 30 years, after sending its army in as peacekeepers during the 1975-1990 civil war. Its direct hold was broken in 2005, when anger over the slaying of ex-Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri -- blamed by many on Damascus -- forced the troops to leave.

-- AP