MASNAA BORDER POST, Lebanon – Sheltering from the searing heat in the shade of his truck, a red-faced and sweating Ali Bakri glared angrily at the endless line of cargo trucks stranded on the Lebanese-Syrian border. “We are being treated like animals. We have no food, no water to wash. How long can this go on?” the 35-year-old Jordanian trucker said Monday.Fresh fruits are turning to mush as customs officials carry out excruciatingly thorough searches, spending up to an hour with each vehicle. Previously, Syrian officials gave only cursory searches and often simply waved drivers through. Truckers now wait in line a week or more.The drivers and their cargo are a casualty of the souring relations between Lebanon and Syria since Damascus was forced to relinquish its three-decade-long military grip on Lebanon three months ago.Many Lebanese say Syria has clamped what amounts to a land and sea siege on its tiny neighbor to exact revenge following the withdrawal of thousands of troops. But the Syrians say the strict measures are aimed at catching saboteurs and militants.France, a close Lebanese ally, has criticized the Syrian border actions. U.N. envoy Terje Roed-Larsen briefed European Union foreign ministers on the dispute Monday and urged Lebanon and Syria to end the impasse.Lebanon’s only land outlet is via its shared border with Syria, through which 60 percent of Lebanese exports pass on their way to other Arab and Gulf markets, officials say. The dispute is estimated to be costing Lebanon over $300,000 a day.

In addition to Syrian checks at the eastern Masnaa and northern Abboudieh-Dabboussieh border crossings, Syrian authorities have arrested nine fishermen in recent days_ eight Lebanese and one Syrian — for allegedly fishing in Syrian waters.

Lebanon’s pro-Syrian president, Emile Lahoud, telephoned Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad about the fishermen and was assured they would be released later Monday, according to Lahoud’s office. Syria’s official news agency said five have been freed. No details were available on the others.

Fuad Saniora, Lebanon’s prime minister-designate chosen by the anti-Syrian coalition that took control of this country’s parliament after recent elections, accepted that Syria must safeguard its border security but criticized the extreme measures.

“This is not the way the relationship between two Arab countries should be,” Saniora said on Sunday. “We understand there are security concerns but there are measures that can be taken to deal with those concerns while still facilitating the transit of goods.”

Syria once boasted about its close ties with Lebanon, but relations between the two plummeted following the Feb. 14 assassination of popular former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri, which many here blamed on Syria. Damascus has denied the claims repeatedly, but his death set off huge protests that led to the ouster of Lebanon’s pro-Syrian government and the withdrawal of Syrian forces. Since then, a spate of assassinations have targeted Lebanese personalities.

Hariri’s son and leader of the anti-Syrian bloc, legislator Saad Hariri, said Syria’s border measures were aimed at “imposing a blockade on Lebanon.” The younger Hariri said Monday that he and his allies are studying other ways to market Lebanese goods.

Syrian customs officials denied they are holding up trucks leaving Lebanon, reiterating the measures were caused by necessary security searches. But the scene on this mountain pass leading from the fertile green Bekaa Valley into the plains before Damascus tells a different story.

Hundreds of trailer trucks from Lebanon and other Arab countries are backed up at the border, a line stretching nearly five miles. Many are hauling fruit, which drivers complain has been rotting as their trucks bake in the intense summer heat.

“Look at me, I’m getting lice!” said Bakri, who has been stranded here with his truckload of empty Coca-Cola bottles for eight days. “Each day I move forward 200 yards.”

Syrians feel “bitter” and let down because of what happened in Lebanon, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem told Lebanon’s Al Hayat-LBC station late Sunday, indicating the border measures could be a result of those feelings.