Lebanese President Michel Suleiman has approved the appointment of Ali Abdul Karim Ali as the first Syrian ambassador to Beirut, said a statement from the Lebanese presidency on Tuesday.

President Michel Suleiman approved the nomination of Ali Abdul Karim Ali as the Syrian Arab Republic's ambassador to Beirut, an official from the president's office said in a statement on Tuesday.

In October, Syria and Lebanon had jointly announced that they have decided to establish diplomatic relations with each other after 60 years since gaining their independence from French colonial rule.

Though Syria had opened its embassy in Beirut in December, it had delayed naming its envoy to Lebanon until now.

However Lebanon, which opened its embassy in the Syrian capital earlier in March, had named Michel el-Khoury as its ambassador to Damascus at the start of 2009.

The relationship between the two countries had deteriorated over the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 after Lebanon accused Syria of orchestrating his assassination. However, Syria has denied any involvement in the incident.

Rafik Hariri and 22 others were killed in a bomb blast in Beirut in February 2005. Though no one has yet been charged with his assassination, the case is currently the subject of a United Nations inquiry, which was launched after the UN Security Council found that the Lebanese investigation had serious flaws.

Following Hariri's assassination, Damascus was forced to withdraw its forces from Lebanon in 2005 after three decades of occupation, thereby ending its complete dominance over Lebanon's political and military matters. However, Syria still retains some of its influence over Lebanon's political matters through its Hezbollah allies.

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