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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lebanese Lawmakers Appoint New Government After Delay

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Lebanese leaders appointed a new government Tuesday, smashing a seven-week stalemate and pushing the country toward crucial parliamentary elections.

The breakthrough came as troops from neighboring Syria continued to file out of the country, leaving only 1,000 soldiers, a presence far smaller than at any time in the past 29 years, an officer said.

In a separate move loaded with symbolism, Syrian generals paid farewell calls on Lebanese leaders, readying to depart and turn over the reins of power -- and Lebanon's shaky security -- to the Lebanese alone.

U.S. President George W. Bush stoked the pressure on Syria to follow through with its departure and pushed for Lebanon's elections to be held before the May 31 deadline.

"The United States can join with the rest of the world, like we've done, and say to Syria, get out -- not only get out with your military forces, but get out with your intelligence services too; get completely out of Lebanon, so Lebanon can be free and the people can be free," Bush said in an interview with Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. television.

But it was a spirit of compromise between the pro-Syria government and its opposition that finally broke the political deadlock that had stymied the selection of a Cabinet for weeks.

Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati, a moderate pro-Syrian businessman, won backing of the opposition after it achieved a Syrian withdrawal and an international probe into the Feb. 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Several steps remain before an election can be held. A potentially divisive election law must be passed. The opposition is also pressing for the removal of pro-Damascus security chiefs who may seek to preserve Syrian influence.