BEIRUT, FEB. 2 -- Gunmen shot and killed a man reported to be a senior officer of the French secret service in Christian east Beirut today and took a file with classified information he was carrying, security and militia sources said.

Jacques Merrin, who according to sources in Paris was deputy chief of the Lebanon desk in the DGSE, the French secret service, became the fourth Frenchman to be assassinated in four months in east Beirut, an area policed by the Lebanese Army and the Lebanese Forces, the chief Christian militia.

Merrin, traveling as a salesman for an electronics firm with a passport in the name of Meurant, had just left a meeting with top officials at the Lebanese General Security office before being shot. One source said Merrin often consulted with Lebanese experts on security measures and ways to combat terrorism.

Merrin was followed by a car carrying three gunmen as he drove toward Dora, a Christian suburb, witnesses said. The killers fired three bullets into his head and stomach.

A French Embassy spokesman told reporters the victim was a businessman, but official sources in Paris said that he was a member of the French secret service. ommitments in lebanon.

About 6,000 French nationals, most of them with dual Lebanese citizenship, still live in Lebanon, most of them in the Christian sector. Many teach in Lebanese schools.

The pro-Iranian Islamic Jihad faction holds three French hostages and has been pressing Paris for policy changes in the Persian Gulf and the release of jailed pro-Iranian militants.