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Wednesday, April 27, 2005 

Sectarian violence in Beirut

Supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement and Lebanese Forces - two rival Christian groups - touched swords on Sunday night, using knives and metal objects in a fight at the opposition protest camp in Martyrs Square in Beirut. Phalange supporters were also involved.

The FPM supporter reportedly said to the LF members: "You will never evolve and you will not become human any time soon. He later pulled out a knife. Two youths were taken to hospital.

Members of the two rival Christian groups played down the violence. The FPM is allied to exiled warlord Michael Aoun, who has threatened to return to Lebanon on the 7th of May. When he fled to Paris in 1990, it signalled the end of the brutal Civil War. He had declared himself President at the 'alternative presidential palace'. He's one of the few Lebanese politicians to reject the Taif peace accord which reconcilled between warring factions.

The nine-week protest in Martyrs Square is due to end this Saturday. Most of the protesters' demands have been met: Syrian troops and intelligence have completely pulled out of Lebanon, Lebanon's top two Security Chiefs have quit, the pro-Syrian PM has been deposed and elections have been called for May 29th.

Meanwhile, Lebanon has cleared the final hurdle before elections can be called - Najib Al-Miqati has won a confidence vote in his interim cabinet by an overwhelming majority. The Parliament's Speaker Nabih Berri confirmed that voting begins on 29 May.

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