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Wednesday, 8 August, 2001, 00:40 GMT 01:40 UK
Lebanon rounds up Christian opposition
Syrian troops in Lebanon
Syrian troops have withdrawn from Beirut but remain elsewhere
By Kim Ghattas in Beirut

The Lebanese army intelligence has arrested around 150 members of two Christian groups which represent the main force in the opposition to the Syrian presence in Lebanon, where Damascus maintains some 20,000 troops.

Lebanese soldiers
Some believe Lebanon can look after itself
Those arrested on Tuesday evening were mainly followers of two parties. One is the FNC - the Free National Current, which is tied to the exiled Christian leader Michel Aoun.

The other is the Lebanese Forces - a disbanded Christian militia whose leader, Samir Geagea is in jail.

Most of the arrested are students, but there are also several well-known party officials.

Detained officials

One of those arrested is Toufic Hindi, a leading member of the Lebanese Forces who was picked up from his home without a warrant.

Another of those detained is retired Lebanese army commander Nadim Lteif, who is the coordinator of the FNC.

Many people were arrested in the same location, leading to speculation that there were party meetings going on.

Church in Juniya, Lebanon
There is a history of enmity between the Druze and the Christian Maronites
Earlier in the day, the army had issued a statement in which it warned against those who exploit the atmosphere of freedom to carry out acts of disorder, that have nothing to do with patriotism.

The arrests also come two days after the Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir toured the Shouf mountains in a reconciliatory move towards Lebanon's Druze community.

During one of the masses of the weekend tour, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud was booed very loudly by supporters of the two Christian parties, who also clashed with security forces.

Families of those arrested are planning to hold a rally on Wednesday at the residence of the Maronite patriarch to demand the release of their relatives.

The BBC's Kim Ghattas in Beirut
"Most of those arrested are still being questioned"
See also:

11 Apr 01 | Middle East
Lebanon blast injures Druze
27 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Lebanon
18 Jun 01 | Middle East
Syria withdraws troops from Beirut
13 Apr 01 | Middle East
Tensions high for Lebanon anniversary
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