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News In Brief

February fighting swelled Lebanese refugee ranks

Some 500,000 people -- 20 percent of Lebanon's population -- were driven from their homes and became refugees during the heavy fighting in the Beirut area last month, a government official said Wednesday.

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''This is a very serious social problem,'' said Lebanese Health Minister Adnan Mrowa at a news conference. ''It is equivalent to displacement of 40 million to 50 million Americans.''

Mr. Mrowa said one of the biggest problems is finding adequate shelter for the refugees.