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LEBANON

Pro- and anti-Syrian groups clash in Lebanon

Latest update : 03/06/2012

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Article text by News Wires

The streets of northern Lebanon were blighted Saturday by gun battles between supporters and opponents of the neighbouring Syrian regime. The violence left at least eight people dead and 40 others wounded in the city of Tripoli.

REUTERS - Clashes erupted between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in neighbouring Lebanon's northern port city of Tripoli on Saturday, killing eight people and wounding 40, residents and a doctor said.

A Reuters journalist said the two sides fired machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades at each other and that the army moved into the area with armoured vehicles in an attempt to quell the violence but did not open fire.

Gunmen from the Jabal Mohsen district, home to the minority Alawite sect - the same offshoot of Shi'ite Islam to which Assad belongs - have fought on-off skirmishes over the past few weeks with the Sunni Muslim residents of the Bab al-Tabbaneh area.

Saturday's death toll is the highest in a single day in Tripoli, raising fears that Syria's unrest could spill over into its smaller neighbour.

Lebanon's National News Agency said there was "shelling across both areas heard every five minutes, and snipers targeting civilians".

Residents said those killed included civilians caught in the crossfire and that a Lebanese soldier was among the wounded.

The neighbourhoods have long-standing grievances separate from the Syrian conflict but the Sunni-led uprising has led to strife among Lebanon's divided population, especially in majority Sunni Tripoli, 70 km (43 miles) north of Beirut.

International peace envoy Kofi Annan said on Saturday that Syria was slipping into all-out war and that the entire region would suffer if the international community did not step up pressure on Assad.

"Let me appeal to all of you to engage earnestly and seriously with all other stakeholders, mindful that if regional and international divisions play out in Syria, the Syrian people and the region - your region - will pay the price," Annan told a meeting of Arab League member countries.

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