BEIRUT (AFP) – Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora called for former power-broker  Syria to learn to treat its smaller neighbour as an independent state. "The Syrians must get used to dealing with Lebanon as an independent state, an independence which does no harm to Syria," he said in a statement carried by local newspapers on the eve of Lebanese independence day Tuesday.

"The Lebanese must also be persuaded that they live in an independent country which is free to take its own decisions," said Siniora, calling for "cordial and healthy ties with Syria, based on mutual respect". It will be Lebanon’s first independence day for almost 30 years without foreign troops deployed on its territory.

Syria wound up its 29-year military presence in Lebanon in April, two months after former premier Rafiq Hariri’s assassination in which the Syrian intelligence services have been accused of complicity.

The Lebanese opposition to the former pro-Syrian leadership in Beirut, now in power, has long called for an exchange of embassies between the two countries which have never established diplomatic relations.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sent a congratulatory message to his Lebanese counterpart Emile Lahoud for the 62nd anniversary of Lebanon’s independence from France, Syria’s state news agency SANA reported.

The message underlined "Syria’s commitment to brotherly relations between the two countries in keeping with the wishes of the people of Syria and Lebanon and their long historical and cultural links".

Siniora also Monday received a message from Syrian Prime Minister Naji Otri on the unresolved border issues, a Lebanese official said, without giving details.

On October 17, the Lebanese premier said the two neighbours had opened talks on the controversial issue of their common border and on establishing diplomatic ties.