Clashes erupt in Lebanon as Hizbullah-led opposition enforces strike

Hizbullah supporters and government backers clashed in Beirut neighborhoods Wednesday, exchanging gunfire and throwing stones after the Shiite militant group blocked major roads to enforce an anti-government strike. The violence deepened tensions in a country already mired in a 17-month-old political crisis pitting the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hizbullah against the government of US-backed Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. The troubles have left Lebanon without a president since November. Explosions and gunfire echoed throughout the city. The cause of the explosions was not immediately known, but witnesses and television reports said they may have been rocket-propelled grenades. Both sides accused each other of using gunfire in the clashes. An Associated Press photographer saw gunmen from Hizbullah and its allied Shiite Amal group shooting toward a building housing an office for a pro-government Sunni group. Police also were seen firing toward a building and at times, police fired in the air to try to disperse clashes.