Lebanon sets deadline for end to standoff

Updated on May 28, 2007 10:36 AM IST
Lebanon has given Palestinian mediating groups until the middle of the week to negotiate an end to a standoff between the Lebanese troops and an Islamist militia.
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IANS | By, Beirut

Lebanon has given Palestinian mediating groups until the middle of the week to negotiate an end to a standoff between the Lebanese troops and an Islamist militia holed up in a northern refugee camp.

The Lebanese army demand that fighters of Fatah al-Islam surrender and be handed over for prosecution for attacking Lebanese troops last week, Ya Libnan news website reported on Sunday evening.

The main Palestinian factions in Lebanon including the Fatah party of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) are commissioned for the negotiations.

The Lebanese army has besieged Fatah al-Islam, an Al-Qaida-linked group made up of fighters from across the region since Saturday.

Walid Jumblatt, a senior leader of the pro-government majority voiced the army's position when he demanded the handing over of the Fatah al-Islam militants, who have been battling the army at the Nahr al-Bared camp for a week in Lebanon's worst internal violence since the 1975-1990 civil war.

"Nobody has talked about a military solution, but we want the criminals to give themselves up."

For the last two days, situation around the camp remained quiet during the day, as a truce started from Tuesday night continues to hold, but sporadic fighting was reported for the two consecutive nights of Saturday and Sunday.

Some residents who fled the camp said they had dodged sniper fire from Fatah al-Islam, which is targeting fleeing civilians to keep the camp's population as human shields.

Under a 38-year-old agreement, the Lebanese army do not enter the 12 Palestinian refugee camps in the country.

Fighting between the Lebanese military and Fatah al-Islam, which started last Sunday, has left scores dead, destroyed houses and sent over 20,000 of the camp's 31,000 residents fleeing their homes.

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