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Armed Conflict

Lebanese president calls on Hezbollah to pull out of Syria

There are growing concerns that the fighting in Syria could spill over its borders and draw its neighbors into the conflict. Now Lebanon’s president has called on Hezbollah fighters to pull out of the country.

President Michel Suleiman used a newspaper interview published on Thursday to call on the powerful Lebanon-based Shiite group to stop fighting on the side of government forces in Syria.

His appeal followed a statement from Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who said his guerrilla fighters would continue to take an active role in the Syrian conflict, after they helped troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad retake the town of Qusair in Homs province.

"If they take part in a battle for Aleppo, and more Hezbollah fighters are killed, it will lead to more tension," Suleiman told the As-Safir newspaper. "This should end in Qusair, and [Hezbollah] should return home," he added.

Also on Thursday, Suleiman submitted a memorandum to the Arab League, in which he complained of "violations and acts of aggression against Lebanon from all parties to the conflict in Syria." This was the same document that he had previously sent to the United Nations.

Syrian spill over

Despite the government having adopted an official position of neutrality on the Syrian conflict, Lebanon has seen a growing number of spill-over incidents of violence on its territory.

Dozens of people have been killed in pitched battles that have broken out frequently between Alawite pro-Assad gunmen and Sunni anti-Assad fighters in the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli.

According to a UN estimate, at least 93,000 people have been killed in Syria since the unrest began more than two years ago with peaceful demonstrations calling for democratic reforms in the country.

Concern about cultural sites

Meanwhile, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has placed six ancient sites in Syria on its endangered list. A statement released following a meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Cambodia on Thursday expressed "deep concern" about the danger the Syrian conflict poses to the sites.

"The danger listing is intended to mobilize all possible support for the safeguarding of these properties," the statement said.

pfd/dr (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)