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Lebanon Arrests 150 Christian Opposition Members

Posted: Tuesday, August 07, 2001 at 06:32 PM CT

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese security sources on Tuesday said they had arrested at least 150 members of Christian-led opposition groups fiercely opposed to Syria's political domination of Lebanon.

Leaders of Lebanon's Maronite Christian community have been among the most vocal critics of Syria's presence in Lebanon, which still includes some 20,000 troops despite a June pullout from Beirut seen as a concession to Christian discontent.

The sources said they had arrested over 100 members of the Liberal Nationalist Trend, tied to exiled Christian rebel leader Michel Aoun, and around 40 members of the banned Lebanese Forces, which supports jailed militia leader Samir Geagea.

There was no immediate official explanation of the arrests, but they came shortly after the military issued a statement warning against ``those who exploit the climate of freedom to carrying out acts of disorder...that have nothing to do with politics or nationalist consciousness.''

Aoun led a quixotic campaign to drive Syrian forces from Lebanon near the end of the country's 1975-1990 civil war, and has consistently denounced Syria's heavy hand in Lebanon since he took up residence in France after the war.

Geagea, convicted of the assassination of Muslim and Christian political opponents during the war, is the only one of Lebanon's many warlords to face a court.

His supporters clashed with security forces on Sunday during a visit by Lebanon's top Christian cleric to the Chouf mountains -- where Druze fighters then loyal to Syria crushed Christian militias and drove out Christian communities during the war.

Syria poured tens of thousands of troops into Lebanon early in the war to save Christian militias from a crushing defeat at the hands of Muslim and Palestinian fighters, but turned against them after their political leadership sided with Israel.

For more information, visit the Lebanese Forces website

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