Hezbollah Gives Ground to Government

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Lebanese troops patrolled Beirut on Sunday after Hezbollah fighters pulled back from areas they had seized in gun battles with supporters of the government.

But fighting broke out overnight in Tripoli between pro- and anti-government gunmen. Security sources said at least two people were killed and five were wounded in the clashes.

Police put the toll of five days of fighting in Beirut and elsewhere at 44 dead and 128 wounded.

Hundreds of soldiers backed by armored vehicles set up roadblocks and took up positions on the streets of the mainly Muslim part of the capital.

Youths maintained barricades on some crucial roads, ensuring Beirut's air and sea ports remained closed.

The Hezbollah-led opposition said it would maintain a campaign of "civil disobedience" until all its demands were met.

Hezbollah, a political group backed by Iran and Syria with a guerrilla army, said Saturday that it was ending its armed presence in Beirut after the army overturned government decisions against it.

There was little progress in efforts to resolve the political disputes that have plunged Lebanon into its worst crisis since a civil war from 1975 to 1990.

"At the level of what caused the immediate crisis, we are half way towards defusing it," said Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. But no solution to the wider crisis is in sight.

Hezbollah took over much of west Beirut on Friday after its fighters routed supporters of the anti-Syrian ruling coalition.

The fighting started on Wednesday after the government said it was taking action against Hezbollah's military communications network and fired the head of security at Beirut airport, who is close to the group.

Hezbollah called the move against its communications a declaration of war.