BEIRUT (AFP) – Tractors started to dismantle sand berms erected by Syrian border guards several kilometers inside Lebanese territory, the head of a municipality in the region said.

"Works started this morning in the presence of officials from the two sides, and should take about a week," said Bassel Hujairi, head of the municipality of Aarsal.

Five tractors of the Syrian and Lebanese armies as well as from Aarsal municipality started to remove the berms, under the supervision of administrative and military officials from the two countries, he said.

The operation came after an agreement between Lebanese and Syrian officials in a meeting held on May 9 in the Syrian resort town of Bludan, near Damascus.

"The committee which supervises the works is not entitled to define or draw the borders. The operation is only a solution for the farmers, to allow them to access their lands," said Hujairi.

On May 2, the Lebanese government decided to ask Damascus to dismantle military positions and sand berms which Syrian border guards have erected between 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles) and five kilometers (3.1 miles) inside Lebanese territory, along an area stretching about 40 kilometers (25 miles).

Syrian authorities had claimed that the berms were laid to curb illicit border smuggling, but Lebanese farmers complained that the berms had cut through their orchards and accused Syrian border guards of harassment.

The row over the berms comes amid tense relations between Lebanon and former powerbroker  Syria since the April 2005 end of Damascus’ 29-year military presence and political domination of its smaller neighbor.

Syria pulled out its troops under tremendous domestic and international pressure heightened by the February 2005 assassination of five-time Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri which has been widely blamed on Damascus.