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Hezbollah impose control on Beirut

ICC Note

Lebanon is in crisis as Hezbollah takes control of part of Beirut . The current conflict is reminiscent of the civil war in the country in which the country’s Christians and Muslims got involved.

By Tom Perry

06/09/2008 Lebanon (Reuters) – Lebanon ‘s Iranian-backed Hezbollah took control of the Muslim part of Beirut on Friday, tightening its grip on the city in a major blow to the U.S.-backed government.

Security sources said at least 11 people had been killed and 30 wounded in three days of battles between pro-government gunmen and fighters loyal to Hezbollah, a Shi’ite political movement with a powerful guerrilla army.

The European Union, Germany and France urged calm and a peaceful resolution. Syria said the issue was an internal Lebanese affair while Iran blamed “the adventurist interferences” of the United States and Israel for the violence.

The fighting, the worst internal strife since the 1975-90 civil war, was triggered this week after the government took decisions targeting Hezbollah’s military communications network. The group said the government had declared war.

In scenes reminiscent of the darkest days of the civil war, young men armed with assault rifles roamed the streets amid smashed cars and smoldering buildings.

Blow To Government

Hezbollah gunmen took control of media outlets owned by governing coalition leader Saad al-Hariri, Lebanon ‘s strongest Sunni politician. Hariri’s television and radio stations went off the air.

Hezbollah, a Shi’ite group also backed by Syria , had been steadily seizing offices of pro-government factions in the predominantly Muslim western half of the city.

“It certainly leaves the government weaker and the Future movement weaker,” said Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut .

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Thursday the government had declared of war by declaring the communications network illegal.

Hezbollah on Thursday rejected a proposal by Hariri to end the crisis. Nasrallah said the government must rescind its decisions and attend talks aimed at ending the political crisis.

Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria , has led a 17-month-long political campaign against Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s anti-Syrian cabinet.

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