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Will Syria's fires singe Lebanon?

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In addition, the mysterious abduction of seven Estonians on a cycling holiday through Syria and Lebanon, as well as a roadside bomb attack against United Nations peacekeepers (the first in more than three years), have sparked speculation that Syria may be using some of its allies in Lebanon to stir up trouble. Such allegations remain unconfirmed – the perpetrators and motives of both acts are still unknown. But the speculation indicates the level of unease and suspicion here.

But while the security breaches have helped create a climate of uncertainty and more are expected in the short term, some Lebanese analysts are confident that Syria's unrest will not be detrimental in the long term.

“The Syrian regime is 48 years old and Lebanon is 150 years old and therefore definitely much more immune, more resilient, and able to survive,” says Ousama Safa, a Beirut-based political analyst.

'The Sunnis want a war'

The most consistent and volatile flash point in Lebanon is probably the front line between Tripoli's Sunni-populated Bab Tebbaneh district and the hilltop Alawite quarter of Jabal Mohsen, marked by a string of ragged bullet-pocked and abandoned buildings.

Over the past six years, there have been several bouts of fighting here as Lebanon lurched from one political crisis to another. Last Friday’s clashes between Jabal Mohsen and Bab Tebbaneh, as well as the adjacent Sunni district Qobbe, offer a portent of more trouble to come.

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