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French Version

Army seizes arms from Islamic faction in Tripoli

The Lebanese Armed Forces on Sunday confiscated weapons belonging to the "Islamic Tawheed Movement - Hashem Minkara group" at a random military checkpoint in the northern city of Tripoli. The weapons were being transported in a Mercedes car driven by members of the group.

In a related incident, security forces arrested Rabih Sablouh, a Tawheed member, for allegedly shooting at a citizen on Saturday in the Tripoli neighborhood of Al-Mina.

Both incidents came after representatives of different parties in Tripoli and the North signed a reconciliation agreement under the auspices of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Future Movement leader Saad Hariri.

The agreement was aimed at putting an end to sectarian strife between Sunnis of Bab al-Tabaneh and Alawites of Jabal Mohsen. However, the Tripoli-based Islamic Tawheed Movement was not among the signatories on the reconciliation agreement; also know as the "Tripoli Document."

The document calls for eliminating all armed action in the North, handing over security to the Lebanese army, allowing displaced people to return to their homes, paying compensation for residents whose homes were damaged during the fighting, and providing temporary shelter for those who need it. The document also commits all parties to refrain from all forms of violence.

The Sunni mufti of Tripoli and the North, Sheikh Malek Shaar, told The Daily Star on Sunday that he was not aware that a shooting had took place in Tripoli on Sunday. But Shaar confirmed that the Islamic Tawheed Movement was not involved in the reconciliation.

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Omar Karami said that the Tripoli reconciliation would not have been possible without Syria.

Karami quoted Syrian President Bashar Assad as telling him that Syria was interested in stability in Lebanon.

Syria's Assad is a follower of the Alawite faith, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

The former premier also urged the army to be strict in enforcing security measures and restricting all illegal arms without any distinction between one faction and the other.

In a related development, the Israeli Web site DEBKAfile reported that two Syrian commando battalions accompanied by reconnaissance and engineering units have crossed into Lebanon during the last 48 hours and taken up positions in seven Alawite villages outside Tripoli.

The Web site said that the Syrian incursion has coincided with the expected arrival of Russian naval and engineering experts in Tartous, the Syrian port city 40 kilometers north of Tripoli, to serve as the Russian fleet's first permanent Mediterranean base.

But well-informed military sources denied to The Daily Star the occurrence of such incursion. The sources added that reports carried by the Israeli Web site were "not credible."

Syrian withdrew its forces from Lebanon in April 2005 in the aftermath of the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri in February 2005. The killing was widely blamed on Damascus, which denied any involvement in the murder.

Beirut 15-09-2008
The Daily Star

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