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Foreign Military Aid Arrives in Lebanon to Help Fight Islamic Militants

25 May 2007

Military transport planes have begun arriving in Lebanon, bringing foreign military aid to help the Lebanese army fight Islamic militants inside a Palestinian refugee camp.

Lebanese security officials say two planes arrived at the Beirut airport Friday, and more flights are expected soon.

The United States has said it would rush help to Lebanon, after Beirut requested more military aid following the outbreak of fighting at the Nahr al-Bared camp near the port city of Tripoli.

On Thursday, the Lebanese army and militants at the camp briefly exchanged heavy gunfire, breaking a two-day-old truce.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has vowed to crush the Islamic militants believed linked to al-Qaida.

The Fatah-al-Islam militants holed up in the refugee camp said they will abide by the truce, but will not surrender and will fight if attacked.

About 75 people - soldiers, militants and civilians - have been killed since the fighting began Sunday.

Relief workers say as many as half of some 30,000 residents of the camp have fled since the truce went into effect. Most headed to Tripoli and another nearby Palestinian refugee camp - Beddawi.

Also on Thursday, the new French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, held talks with Mr. Siniora and other senior officials, including the speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri.

France's Foreign Ministry said Kouchner's trip to Beirut was aimed at reaffirming French solidarity with Lebanon during what it called this "critical period." Lebanon is a former French colony.

The battles on the outskirts of Tripoli are said to be the worst internal fighting since Lebanon's 15-year civil war ended in 1990.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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