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When he died in 2000, his son Bashar succeeded. Upon his accession to power, Bashar freed hundreds of political prisoners. Syria underwent a degree of relaxation. Political debate was tolerated and open calls for freedom of expression and political pluralism were made. Syrian troops - stationed in Lebanon since 1976 in an ostensible peacekeeping role - were withdrawn in April of 2005.
Foreigners may own land in Syria. But Syria is still considered by the US as a principal sponsor of terrorism, which does not however render land ownership in Syria illegal in US eyes. Syria is also still under a state of emergency, which has been in force since March 1963.