September 17, 2008 / 2:18 AM / 9 years ago

Christian factions clash in north Lebanon, 2 dead

TRIPOLI, Lebanon (Reuters) - Two people were killed and three were wounded in a clash between supporters of rival Christian factions in north Lebanon overnight, security sources said on Wednesday.

The violence, the latest in a series of deadly clashes in several areas of Lebanon in recent days, came hours after rival Lebanese leaders held a first session of talks aimed at discussing divisive issues and easing sectarian and political tensions.

The sources had little detail on how the firefight began in a village in the northern Kora province, but they said it pitted supporters of the pro-Syrian Marada party against followers of the anti-Syrian Lebanese Forces group.

One supporter of each group died in the exchanges, the sources said. Three people were wounded.

Marada is allied to the powerful Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah while the Lebanese Forces is part of a Western-backed alliance led by Sunni politician Saad al-Hariri.

The Lebanese security forces deployed in the area and conducted contacts with officials from both sides to contain the situation, the sources said.

Leaders of both camps met on Tuesday and agreed to step up reconciliation efforts and to begin discussion on the divisive issue of Hezbollah weapons in a second round of talks scheduled for November.

The Hariri-led alliance wants Hezbollah's military arm integrated into the Lebanese army. The Shi'ite group and its allies say its weapons are needed to defend Lebanon against any "Israeli threats".

Hezbollah maintains a strong guerrilla army that fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006. It used some of its military muscle in May to rout supporters of its opponents in Beirut.

Writing by Nadim Ladki; Editing by Catherine Evans

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