Beirut, Lebanon
Students clash with supporters of Hezbollah

University students loyal to Lebanon’s government clashed with Hezbollah supporters yesterday, setting cars ablaze and battling with homemade clubs and stones. The melee deepened worries that Lebanon cannot contain the political and sectarian rivalries threatening to push it toward civil war.

At least three people were killed and dozens were injured before army troops backed by tanks and firing barrages of warning shots into the air dispersed most rioters. The military then declared Beirut’s first curfew since 1996.

But the fallout reaches far beyond the casualty count. The clashes, sparked by a cafeteria scuffle between pro-government Sunni Muslims and pro-Hezbollah Shiites, reinforced fears that Lebanon’s sectarian divisions are erupting into violence as they did during the 1975-1990 civil war.

It was the third straight day of violence, sparked by a Hezbollah-led strike Tuesday that came ahead of a crucial gathering of donor nations in Paris. The conference Thursday raised pledges of $7.6 billion to help Prime Minister Fuad Saniora’s U.S.-backed government rebuild after last summer’s devastating Israel-Hezbollah war.

The money and show of international support could boost the embattled Saniora. The Iranian-backed Hezbollah has vowed to bring him down unless the opposition is given more power.

The chaos has paralyzed the government. Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said Wednesday that donors were backing the wrong side in the standoff and that he could topple Saniora at any time.

No compromise seen between two Iraq resolutions

The leader of a bipartisan effort to rebuke President Bush’s Iraq strategy said yesterday he would not strike a compromise with a harsher Democratic resolution the Senate will debate next week.

Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), former chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he won’t negotiate with Democrats to develop a single proposal on Iraq. His comments – along with the emergence of other resolutions the Senate might consider – underscored how a Congress largely against Bush’s proposal to send more troops to Iraq remained divided over what to do about it.

Justice Department wants domestic spying suit dropped

The Bush administration sought yesterday to drop its appeal of a federal court ruling that concluded the government’s domestic spying program is unconstitutional, saying the entire issue is moot since the surveillance now is monitored by a secret court.

Responding, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union said they would continue to push for their day in court since President Bush retains authority to continue the warrantless spying program.

The Justice Department’s request has been expected since last week, when Attorney General Alberto Gonzales disclosed that the secret panel of judges who oversee the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act had begun reviewing and approving applications to spy on people believed to be linked to al-Qaida.

The ACLU’s lawsuit against the terrorist surveillance program “is now moot,” the Justice Department wrote in a 21-page brief, filed yesterday with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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