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Lebanon officials reverse decisions that set off violence

  • Story Highlights
  • Firing of airport official, decision on Hezbollah telecom system are reversed
  • 62 people were killed in violence that followed decisions
  • Arab League delegation is to visit this week to negotiate end to crisis
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From Nada Husseini
CNN
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BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- Lebanon's Cabinet on Wednesday reversed two decisions that triggered violence among anti-government Hezbollah militants last week: the firing of the chief of security at Beirut's airport and the order that Hezbollah's telecommunications system come under state control, according to a statement released by Cabinet members.

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The main road to the Al-Masnaa border crossing between Lebanon and Syria was reopened Wednesday.

The violence was the worst to hit Lebanon since the end of its civil war in 1991. It began in Beirut but quickly spread to nearby mountain villages in the Mount Lebanon area and to Tripoli. Sixty-two people were killed as anti-government Shiite Hezbollah militants battled supporters of Lebanon's pro-Western government.

Pro- and anti-government political parties in Tripoli announced a cease-fire Monday night.

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora turned the issues over to the nation's army. The military largely stayed on the sidelines during the violence but said Tuesday that it would use force if necessary against armed groups.

A U.S. military official said Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the acting commander of U.S. Central Command, spent Wednesday in Beirut to discuss the crisis with officials there and assure them that U.S. military aid will continue.

For the past several years, the Defense Department has supplied Lebanese armed forces with ammunition, armored vehicles and weapons.

The United States considers Hezbollah a terrorist group and supports Lebanon's government.

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Lebanon's presidency has been vacant since pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud's term ended in November. Despite general agreement on army chief Gen. Michel Suleiman to fill the post, political wrangling among Lebanon's political factions -- including disagreements on how to share power in a future Cabinet -- has kept the issue from coming up for a vote.

It was not immediately clear how the decision by the Cabinet will affect negotiations aimed at ending the crisis. Several Western and Middle Eastern nations had lined up to support an Arab League effort to intervene. An Arab League delegation is scheduled to arrive in Lebanon this week in hope of negotiating an agreement.

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