Copyright (c) 2006 The Daily Star
Friday, December 01, 2006
The Messages on the protest banners
Daily Star Online edition staff
Scores of soldiers, using barbed wire and metal barriers, cordoned off the complex housing the government's offices in the downtown area. Less than 30 metres away, the crowds gathered, waving red-and-white Lebanese flags under banners demanding a government of national unity.
"We want a clean government," one banner read.
Hezbollah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Kassem said the protests would not end until Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's cabinet fell.
"This government will not take Lebanon to the abyss. We have several steps if this government does not respond but I tell them you will not be able to rule Lebanon with an American administration," he told Hezbollah's al-Manar television.
Christian opposition leader and Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun was scheduled to address the protest. Hezbollah has repeatedly criticised Siniora's cabinet over what it says was its failure to back Hezbollah during a July-August war with Israel.
Different quotes were gathered from the crowd: "We're here to bring down the government. We, the resistance, don't want any influence from the United States," a member of the protest said.
"We're protesting so that the government knows that nobody wants Siniora," said Hamzi Mesheh, 18, a university student from Baalbek, who had a Lebanese flag tied around his head.
SINIORA DEFIANT The anti-Syrian politicians who control the cabinet say that Hezbullah and its allies want to stage a coup. Siniora said on Thursday his government would not stand down.
The government was weakened last month by the resignation of six opposition ministers and the Nov. 21 assassination of anti-Syrian Christian cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel.
His funeral drew tens of thousands into central Beirut, with many mourners accusing Damascus of being behind the killing.
Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, the most prominent anti-Syrian leader, urged supporters to remain calm and avoid street confrontations.
"Very calmly, we will remain steadfast," he told a news conference on Friday. "We will confront (the opposition) calmly. We will remain in our houses and fly the Lebanese flags... We will wait for a month, for two months... and watch them." Many Lebanese fear large protests could turn violent.