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Friday, 13 April, 2001, 10:15 GMT 11:15 UK
Tensions high for Lebanon anniversary
Pro-Syrian demonstrators defy ban on rallies
Pro-Syrian demonstrators defy a ban on rallies
By Kim Ghattas in Beirut

Lebanon commemorates the 26th anniversary of the start of the civil war that divided the country for 15 years.

Beirut during war
Lebanon was ravaged by 15 years of war
Tensions in the country have been running high as the debate about the presence of Syrian troops intensifies, and many compare the atmosphere to the tensions preceding the war.

In a bid to dispel the tensions, political opponents visited each other on Thursday.

The ministry of interior has banned all demonstrations, fearing clashes between those who call for the withdrawal of the 35,000 Syrian troops based in Lebanon and those who defend that presence.

'Terrorist message'

The major divisions remain those among political leaders who are split in their positions concerning Syrian involvement in Lebanon.

Syrian soldier in Lebanon
Syrian presence divides Lebanese politicians
In one state, a parcel bomb exploded in the face of relatives of parliamentarian Akram Chehayeb.

Mr Chehayeb is an ally of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who has been spearheading the calls for a Syrian redeployment.

Once a Syrian ally, Mr Jumblatt said the bomb was a terrorist message addressed to him and his allies because of their political position.

Easing tensions

The atmosphere eased somewhat on Thursday after several visits by political leaders to their opponents.

Mr Jumblatt visited Lebanese President Emil Lahoud for the first time since he was declared persona non grata in Damascus six months ago.

He described the meeting with Mr Lahoud as excellent.

Interestingly, he offered the president two books about his father, Kamal Jumblatt, who is thought to have been killed by the Syrians in 1976 for opposing their role in Lebanon.

As they remember the war, after 10 years of peace, the Lebanese are learning to listen to each other in their own way.

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See also:

11 Apr 01 | Middle East
Lebanon blast injures Druze
11 Oct 00 | Middle East
Lebanon's uneasy peace
10 Jun 00 | Middle East
Lebanon mourns 'great Arab leader'
27 Oct 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Lebanon
05 Sep 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Lebanon's uncertain future
24 Mar 99 | Middle East
The Druze: Love across the divide
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