The Presidents of Syria and Lebanon have agreed a timetable for the redeployment of Syrian troops which could lead to their complete withdrawal from Lebanon. 

As the talks began, Lebanese soldiers took up posts near a Syrian military outpost east of Beirut.

Lebanon's Defence Minister, Abdel Rahim Mrad, said the two-phase withdrawal would start immediately after the end of the talks in Damascus between Syria's Bashar al-Assad and Lebanon's Emile Lahoud.

The first phase involves the redeployment of Syrian forces to the Bekaa Valley, which is on the Lebanese side of the border between the two countries. 

Syria has had troops in Lebanon since 1976, but has come under intense pressure to withdraw them since the assassination last month of the former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik al-Hariri.

The international community has given a mixed response to the redeployment announcement.

The United States and France have called for a complete and immediate withdrawal.