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Crisis gets worse in Lebanon

Lebanon's political crisis worsened Friday, with government ministers fearing for their lives after an assassination of one of their own, businesses on strike and all sides ignoring calls for dialogue.

Several hundred supporters of the pro-Syria group Hezbollah burned tires and blocked the road from Beirut to the airport before its leader ordered them home, but the government pressed ahead with an issue that was likely to further anger Hezbollah.

The Cabinet was to meet today to give its final approval to a U.N.-created international court to try four pro-Syrian generals suspected in the February 2005 killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Tuesday's assassination of Interior Minister Pierre Gemayel, an anti-Syrian Christian leader, has reignited anger at Damascus, which has denied any role in the slayings of Hariri, Gemayel or four other anti-Syrian politicians over the past two years.

Anti-Syrians dominate the government and Parliament, but Hezbollah, a powerful guerrilla group, is threatening to bring down the government with mass protests unless it and its allies get more power in the Cabinet.

Lebanon's ethnic groups are facing their sharpest divisions since the 1975-90 civil war.

Fearing chaos, business leaders called a two-day strike starting Friday to urge the rival leaders to "take national decisions ... engage in dialogue and stop making threats of street protests."

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