Celebratory gunfire rang out in the Shia-dominated areas of Beirut following the news that the Lebanese government had revoked measures against the Hizbollah movement, which had triggered the worst violence since the country’s 15-year civil war. Hizbollah had demanded that Fouad Siniora’s government reverse its decision, describing it as a ‘declaration of war’.
A government spokesman explained that the decision to sack an airport security chief for alleged ties to the Shiite group, and to declare the militants’ private phone network illegal had been cancelled.
News of the turnaround came as an Arab League delegation arrived in Beirut for mediation talks. The group, led by Qatar’s prime minister, is holding separate meetings with both sides. Dozens of people died in the clashes which erupted between the partisans of the western-backed government and the opposition, backed by Iran and Syria.
The fighting raised concerns that Lebanon is edging towards wider civil strife among Druze and Sunni supporters of the governing coalition and Shiites who back Hizbollah.