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Monday, 13 August, 2001, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
Lebanese Christian's confession 'forced'
Lebanese Christians are arrested
Arrests came amid growing resentment towards Syria
Lawyers in Lebanon say a televised confession by a leading anti-Syrian activist was given under duress.

Toufiq Hindi was shown on Lebanese television on Sunday apparently admitting to having had contacts with an Israeli official and planning to destabilise Lebanon.

Mr Hindi was arrested last week along with more than 200 Lebanese Christians.

The arrests have been condemned by the patriarch of Lebanon's Maronite Christian community, Nasrallah Sfeir, and by the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.

Lebanese Maronite Christian patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir
Maronites say Syria is trying to discredit its critics
The BBC's Middle East analyst Roger Hardy says in the past, the Druze and Maronites have strongly disagreed over Lebanon's future, but common criticism of Syria's presence in Lebanon has united the two leaders.

Our analyst says in the face of such criticism, the Lebanese authorities are accusing hard-line Christians of co-operating with Israel.

Anti-Syrian sentiment

Mr Hindi is a leading member of the a former Lebanese Christian militia called the Lebanese Forces.

Many of its members were arrested by Lebanese army intelligence officers, as well as those belonging to another main Lebanese Christian group, the Free National Current.

Both groups are opposed to Syria exerting its influence over its Lebanese neighbour.

The Syrians recently withdrew some of their 35,000-strong forces from Lebanon, but this has failed to dampen anti-Syrian sentiment in the country.

Our analyst says although some Lebanese Christian groups did align themselves with Israel during the Lebanese civil war in the 1970s and 1980s, Maronites say that was in the past and Syria is only using the allegations to discredit its critics.

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

08 Aug 01 | Middle East
Lebanon rounds up Christian opposition
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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