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Syria and Lebanon Address Border, Missing-Persons Issues

Syria and Lebanon have agreed to resume work on clarifying their disputed border, according to a joint statement issued by the countries' foreign ministers in Damascus

Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, welcomes his Lebanese counterpart Michel Suleiman at the presidential palace in Damascus, Syria on Wednesday, Aug. 13.2008.

A wind of detente blows throgh the region: Assad, right, greets Suleiman

On Thursday, Aug. 14 -- the second day of a two-day meeting -- the leaders of Syria and Lebanon also agreed to examine the fate of hundreds of people who have been missing since Lebanon's civil war.

The decisions came on the second day of meetings between Syrian President Bashar Assad and his Lebanese counterpart, Michel Suleiman, in Damascus.

First visit since 2005

It was the first visit by a Lebanese president to Syria since the 2005 assassination of former premier Rafiq Hariri in Beirut.

The murder, which many in Lebanon blame on Syria, triggered the pullout of Syrian forces from Lebanon after almost 30 years of military presence.

After first deciding to open diplomatic ties between the two countries, the leaders agreed to look into sticky border issues, and to examine the fate of hundreds of people who have been missing since Lebanon's civil war.

The borders between the two countries are poorly delimited in certain places, particularly the Shebaa Farms, a mountainous sliver of land rich in water resources located at the junction of southeast Lebanon, southwest Syria, and northern Israel.

Missing persons on the agenda

The sides also discussed how to control arms trafficking, especially those intended for the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

Most controversial was the issue of the fate of hundreds of Lebanese people who went missing in their country during the 1975-1990 civil war.

Human rights groups claim that around 650 people who vanished during the conflict are being held in Syria.

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