News In Brief

Cease-fire has tenuous hold in south Beirut

The Marines were placed on highest alert Tuesday as shells crashed around their compound. Elsewhere in the city, sporadic gunfire marred the cease-fire that ended three days of fierce fighting between the Lebanese Army and Shiite militiamen.

At least 45 people were killed in the fighting that erupted Dec. 24 around the densely populated Shatila refugee camp after the Army attempted to take over areas abandoned by the French contingent of the multinational peacekeeping force. Residents said neither side appeared to have gained ground, but the Army said it had taken control of Shatila and Sabra Palestinian camps and reopened roads to Beirut airport.

Lebanese businessman Rafiq al-Hariri, chief mediator behind the Sept. 25 cease-fire ending this summer's ''mountain war,'' returned from Damascus with a plan to consolidate the cease-fire by creating buffer zones between the Lebanese Army and various antigovernment forces.

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