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Middle East
Lebanon 'sitting on powder keg'
Abandoned explosives and detonators are found almost daily across Lebanon.
Last Modified: 03 Mar 2007 03:41 GMT

Lebanese experts dismantle explosives found in Beirut on Friday


For Major General Ashraf Rifi, the general director of Lebanon's internal security forces, the almost daily discovery of explosives and detonators around Lebanon are a reminder that peace in this religiously-divided country is fragile.
"Some of the explosives we find are old," he told Al Jazeera. "Others are not."
 
"We are investigating to find out who is sending these messages … what they are trying to say is that they are able to plant explosives that will explode,"

For Lebanon's security service finding more bombs - and would-be bombers - is a top priority.

In February, bombs exploded on two passenger buses near Bikfaya, a mainly Christian town north-east of the capital Beirut. 

The attack left three people dead and scores injured, increasing tensions and sowing mistrust in this religiously-divided country.

Fears
 
The attacks and the subsequent discoveries of more explosives have made many Lebanese fear a return to the the civil war that wracked the country between 1975 and 1990.

Mohammed, 25, a Lebanese citizen told Al Jazeera: "If we find a strange car parked in front of our shop, we become suspicious, we sometimes report it to the police if the car is parked for a long time".
 
Another citizen, Mahmoud, 52, also told Al Jazeera: "There is fear because of the security situation…We stay alert at all times and we make sure that no stranger leaves a bag or a box near our shop."

Tension 

"Some of the explosives we find are old… others are not … we are investigating to find out who is sending these messages … what they are trying to say is that they are able to plant explosives that will explode"

Major General Ashraf Rifi, General Director of Internal Security Forces

This growing uneasiness comes as the government and the opposition remain unable to break a political deadlock.

The Shia-led opposition demands a greater say in the cabinet; a demand that Foaud Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, and his government reject. 

Both sides accuse each other of heightening tensions, and officials and security experts have been warned Lebanon's religious factions are quietly rearming. 
 
"All parties have weapons… this is not a secret … even the Maronite Patriarch warned of the arms race; we are going to see further security breaches if any internal or external party is not happy with a solution," Nasri Sayegh, a political analyst told Al Jazeera.
 
Arms were everywhere when supporters of the government and the opposition fought gun-battles in the streets of Beirut on January 25.

The row
 
The battles degenerated into a Sunni-Shia clash reviving memories of a civil war that left 150,000 Lebanese dead and fuelling fears that an all-out sectarian war was only a mis-step away.
 
The rising tensions have provoked two regional heavyweights countries, Saudi Arabia and Iran, to act.

The two counties, who both back rival Sunni and Shia factions in Lebanon, will meet in Riyadh on Saturday to discuss how to ease tensions in the country.

Source:
Aljazeera
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