Syrian army chief tries to boost ties with Lebanon

Syria's army chief sought Tuesday to improve military ties with Lebanon as part of efforts to bridge the gulf between the two nations, lingering after Syria's almost 30-year-long military domination of its smaller neighbor. Accompanied by a high-ranking military delegation, Gen. Ali Habib held talks in Beirut with President Michel Suleiman and army commander Gen. Jean Kahwaji. Habib is the highest ranking military official to visit Lebanon since Syria's withdrawal in 2005. The visit comes as relations between the two countries have steadily improved in recent months. The two long-feuding rivals, who both gained independence from France in the 1940s, opened embassies and established diplomatic relations last year. A statement from Suleiman's office said he thanked Habib for the assistance provided by Syria's military to Lebanon's army. It did not specify what the assistance entailed.