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French Version

Army clears booby traps, advances in Nahr al-Bared

Four Lebanese soldiers were killed on Sunday in sporadic fighting with the Al-Qaeda inspired militants, holed up inside the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp for the 10th week.

According to Reuters news agency, 15 other soldiers were wounded. The state-run National News Agency said 13 militants were killed.

A Lebanese Army statement identified one of the soldiers killed as Ahmad Khaled Mohrez. He was 21.

An Army spokesperson contacted by The Daily Star denied reports in the Lebanese press that Fatah al-Islam had responded to the army calls for surrender over loudspeakers on Friday, saying: "They don't have a speakerphone or any tools to respond to us as the media reported."

"We called on them to surrender and to allow their families to evacuate, but they continued their attacks and we took that as a rejection of the calls," said the army source.

The deaths brought to 117 the number of soldiers killed in the battles that began on May 20. More than 90 militants and at least 41 civilians have also died.

Meanwhile, political efforts to end the fighting are still under way as former Prime Minister Omar Karami announced on Sunday that a possible "deal" to help end the ongoing conflict in the camp could be reached soon.

"[Karami] has been in regular contact with the Clerics of the Palestine League, but only now did the clerics present a real plausible solution," a source close to former Premier told The Daily Star over the telephone from Tripoli.

In a news conference, Karami declared that a representative from the league Sheikh Moustafa Daoud discussed with him a possible deal reached with the remaining members of Fatah al-Islam to end the deadly conflict.

"They presented me with a solution to end this deadly conflict that has poisoned all of Lebanon," Karami told reporters on Sunday.

"But I needed some clarifications and the [clerics] said they would come back within the next 24 hours and provide me with answers," said Karami.

The source, who was present at the meeting between Karami and Daoud, said that the most important issue is "the army" and "to make sure that its honor is preserved and that those that the army wants to surrender give themselves up."

"There is agreement on the surrender of certain members of Fatah al-Islam, but disagreement on what happens afterwards," he said.

The army released a statement on Sunday saying that its troops are carrying on "with clearing of the grounds in the camp by de-mining and removing booby traps left behind."

The army also said that it confiscated a large amount of "ammunition, explosives and army equipment" on Sunday after gaining full control over the main street inside the camp and the coastal road along the camp.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese Red Cross launched on Sunday a campaign calling on citizens to "donate" blood for the soldiers wounded in the conflict.

Observers speculated that the army will probably end the conflict in a week - by August 1 - in time for the Lebanese Army's National Day.

Earlier on Saturday, a militant purportedly belonging to the group posted an online statement denying reports that Fatah al-Islam's leader had been killed during the fighting. "Emir Shaker al-Abssi is fighting until the last drop of his blood," the militant said in the message carried by the Washington-based SITE Intelligence Group.

Beirut 23-07-2007
The Daily Star

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