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Man Surrenders in Lebanon Bank Standoff

March 29, 2003

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ A man wrapped in explosives threatened to blow up a British bank in Beirut early Saturday to protest the war in Iraq, but surrendered to police a few hours later without incident.

At least 12 bank employees and customers were inside the bank during the standoff, but all were freed without injury.

Heavily armed Lebanese security forces sealed off the area surrounding the Hongkong and Shangai Corp. bank in downtown Hamra Street. The company is headquartered in London.

The standoff ended after Interior Minister Elias Murr entered the building to negotiate with the man, identified as 45-year-old Samir Abdel Karim Berro.

Witnesses said security forces fired shots into the air to keep bystanders away as policemen, backed by army troops, began negotiating with Berro.

As part of the deal to end the standoff, the man was allowed to read a handwritten statement to reporters.

``British interests should be struck in defense of the people of Iraq and the people of Palestine. The Iraqi people are being killed and the Palestinian people too,″ Berro said before police whisked him away.

Berro ``said he did this because he opposed the massacres and injustice against the Iraqi people and that he wanted to blow himself up because he has nothing to lose,″ Murr told Lebanese satellite television.

The Interior Ministry, which is in charge of internal security, said later that Berro had explosives strapped to his body and it took Murr 10 minutes to persuade him to remove them and surrender.

Berro was being questioned by police and judicial officials, the ministry said.

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