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Syrian civil war spills into Lebanon

TRIPOLI, Lebanon -- Gunmen loyal to opposite sides in neighboring Syria's civil war battled yesterday in the streets of a northern Lebanese city where two days of clashes have killed at least six people and wounded more than 50, officials said.

The Lebanese soldiers patrolled Tripoli's streets in armored personnel carriers and manning checkpoints. Authorities closed major roads because of sniper fire.

In Brussels, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reiterated concerns that "an increasingly desperate Assad regime might turn to chemical weapons" or lose control of them to militant groups. She said NATO's decision on Tuesday to send Patriot missiles to Turkey's border with Syria sends a message that Ankara is backed by its allies. The missiles are intended for defensive purposes, she said.

Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, was quoted in the Turkish newspaper Sabah as saying that Syria has about 700 missiles, some of them long-range.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also urged Syria's regime against using its stockpile of chemical weapons, warning of "huge consequences" if Bashar Assad resorts to weapons of mass destruction.

Syria has been careful not to confirm that it has chemical weapons, but the regime insists it would never use them against the Syrian people.

Ban also suggested he would not favor an asylum deal for the Syrian leader as a way to end the country's civil war and cautioned that the United Nations doesn't allow anyone "impunity."

Also yesterday, U.S. officials said the Obama administration is preparing to designate a Syrian rebel group with alleged ties to al-Qaida as a foreign terrorist organization. The step seeks to isolate extremists within the Syrian opposition while bolster those the West supports.

Tensions in Tripoli have been mounting since last week, when reports emerged that 17 Lebanese Sunni fighters were killed in Syria, apparently after they joined the rebellion against Assad.

Meanwhile, Morocco's honorary consul in Aleppo, Syria, was killed by armed men as he left a hotel in the city, the official Moroccan news agency said. Mohamed Alae Eddinne was killed as men in a taxi attacked him among a group of his friends.

Syria's uprising began with peaceful protests in March 2011 and later escalated into a civil war that the opposition says has killed more than 40,000 people.

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