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Lebanon's Army to Crack Down on Sectarian Violence


Lebanon's army says it will now use force to stop the country's worst sectarian fighting since the civil war that ended in 1990.

The army says, starting Tuesday, it will act to stop fighting between pro-government militias and opposition forces led by Hezbollah.

So far, Lebanon's military has stayed out of the violence that began Wednesday in Beirut and has spread to other parts of the country. The fighting has killed at least 61 people and wounded about 200.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a joint statement with 10 nations Monday calling for an immediate end to the violence. The so-called "Friends of Lebanon" group includes the United States and its allies in Europe and the Middle East, Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Spain.

The group urged gunmen to withdraw from Lebanon's streets, unblock roads and allow Beirut's airport to reopen. It also expressed support for Lebanon's pro-Western ruling coalition and the Lebanese army.

In a separate statement Monday, U.S. President George Bush accused Iran, Syria and Hezbollah of working together to, in his words, "bend the Lebanese government and people to their will."

Mr. Bush said the international community will not allow Iran and Syria to use proxies to return Lebanon to foreign domination. He also said Washington will continue aiding the Lebanese military to ensure that it can defend the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

Mr. Bush leaves Washington Tuesday on a five-day trip to Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where he plans to meet Mr. Siniora.

Lebanese officials say they expect an Arab League delegation to arrive in Beirut Wednesday to try to mediate an end to the fighting.

Some information for this report provided by AFP, Reuters and AP.

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