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Lebanese Government Challenges Hezbollah

After a marathon overnight session, the Lebanese government has decided to throw down the gauntlet to the pro-Iranian Hezbollah, in a bid to crack down on the group's mushrooming state-within-a-state activities. Edward Yeranian reports from Beirut.

The embattled pro-Western Lebanese government met overnight amid an air of crisis to demand the pro-Iranian Hezbollah dismantle a pirate telephone network.

Lebanon's Information Minister Ghazi Aridi announced the series of government measures to restrict illegal Hezbollah operations.

Aridi says an investigation is being launched into all parties involved in such activities. He says the government will not accept Hezbollah claims that these networks are needed to protect the group or to counter Israeli surveillance.

The government also announced it is firing the pro-Hezbollah army general responsible for security at Beirut Airport, amid a dispute over an alleged Hezbollah spy camera monitoring a runway used by private jets of top leaders.

During the weekend, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt accused Hezbollah of installing a spy camera near airport runway 17 to monitor the travel of Lebanese leaders in a possible effort to assassinate one of them. Jumblatt cited a memo from the Lebanese Army to the Defense Ministry pointing out the existence of the spy-camera.

Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Kassem denounced Jumblatt's charges, saying the cameras were perfectly legitimate and that Jumblatt would not be the one to control security at Beirut Airport.

Kassem said Hezbollah refuses to accept these charges. He says Jumblatt is not going to run the country the way he wants, and whatever happens there is a limit even if he has scored points on the propaganda front.

Kassem went on to accuse Jumblatt of "serving Israeli and American interests" in Lebanon.

Former Acting Interior Minister Ahmed Fatfat also told Asharqalawsat newspaper that Hezbollah had made "threats to several government officials" if attempts are made to dismantle its illegal telephone network.

Hezbollah and its key allies have called for a general strike Wednesday to "protest rising prices." Hezbollah ally General Michel Aoun urged supporters to "topple the government" through peaceful demonstrations.