Leftist leader forecasts Lebanese conflagration

Fresh fighting in Beirut and renewed artillery dueling around the eastern town of Zahle brought warnings from a prominent leftist leader that Lebanon is on the brink of a major military confrontation.

The daily As-Safir said leftist leader Walid Jumblatt had placed his men on alert and quoted him as saying the nation faced the danger of an imminent full-scale military explosion. In the market town of Zahle, militiamen from the right-wing Falangist Party battled troops from the all-Syrian Arab Deterrent Force for the sixth day.

Reporters at the damaged village of Hoche al-Omara, on the outskirts of the blockaded town, said Arab-force gunners exchanged intense fire with militiamen posted in the hills to the northwest of Zahle.

President Elias Sarkis, struggling to secure an effective cease-fire, contacted Syrian President Hafez al-Assad by telephone about the bitter combat. Officials in Beirut and Damascus said Syrian Foreign Minister Abdel-Halim Khaddam would visit Beirut today (April 7) for talk s with President Sarkis about the fighting.

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