Wary Lebanese marked the 16th anniversary of the outbreak of civil war Saturday, skeptical of official assurances that their nightmare has really ended.

"If there is peace it won't last more than a year or two," said Joseph abi-Nader, a 22-year-old Christian grocer in the battered Beirut suburb of Sodeco near the Green Line zone.Abi-Nader echoed a common feeling among Christian Lebanese - that they have lost the war against their Moslem foes.

"When the war started the Christians had the upper hand. Now it's the Moslems who have won. How can there be peace when the government makes one side prevail over the other?" he added.

Syrian-backed President Elias Hrawi, a Christian Maronite, declared the start of Lebanon's first year of peace Friday.

Diplomats said the government's optimism was an attempt to boost chances for peace.

"The language of the gun has been replaced by the language of dialogue and political and ideological argument," said Posts and Communications Minister George Saadeh, a Maronite Christian.