[Marxism] Massive Lebanese Rally to Kick Out Syr...oh, shit, nevermind....

M. Junaid Alam mjunaidalam at msalam.net
Tue Mar 8 11:36:43 MST 2005

    Huge Pro-Syrian Protest Fills Square and Streets in Beirut



Published: March 8, 2005

BEIRUT, Lebanon, March 8 - Hundreds of thousands of pro-Syrian 
protesters poured into a central Beirut square this afternoon in a 
demonstration called for by the militant group Hezbollah that vastly 
outnumbered recent rallies demanding that Syrian forces leave Lebanon.

Thousands in the vast crowds waved Lebanese flags, as called for by the 
head of Hezbollah, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who made a surprise 
appearance and reiterated his opposition to a United Nations resolution 
demanding an immediate pullout by Syria and Hezbollah's disarmament .

Others held up banners proclaiming in English, "Thanks to Syria" and "No 
to Foreign Interference," as well as pictures of President Bashar 
al-Assad of Syria, his ally, President Émile Lahoud of Lebanon, and 
Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister.

It was Mr. Hariri's assassination on Feb. 14, with many in the 
opposition accusing the Syrians of being responsible for the killing, 
that set off huge opposition protests in Beirut, leading to today's protest.

As the afternoon wore on, the enthusiastic, cheering crowds filled the 
square in central Beirut and spilled over into streets to the north and 
the south.

Loudspeakers blared out endlessly over a public address system, carrying 
the message that Syrian troops should maintain a presence in Lebanon. 
Calls for no foreign intervention referred to the United States and Israel.

Organizers handed out what became a sea of Lebanese flags and directed 
men and women to separate sections of the square. Hezbollah guards 
handled security, and dogs sniffed for bombs.

The site is just a few blocks from another downtown square where 
opposition protesters have been staging protests for days, demanding 
that Syria withdraw the 14,000 troops it maintains in Lebanon.

Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim group, has been mobilizing its followers from 
across the country for the protest, also designed to denounce a United 
Nations resolution that, in addition to its demand for Syrian 
withdrawal, called for dismantling militias - a point Hezbollah sees as 
aimed at its military wing.

In the outlying heavily Shiite regions of the Bekaa Valley and the 
south, loudspeakers urged followers to travel to Beirut for the protest.

Hezbollah, founded by Iran and backed by Syria, has emerged as a key 
element during the latest political instability.

On Monday, in the biggest demonstration yet of anti-Syrian anger, more 
than 70,000 Lebanese shouting "Freedom! Sovereignty! Independence!" 
filled central Beirut. The demonstrators waved Lebanon's cedar-tree flag 
and shouted, "Syria out!"

Two days after Mr. Assad left vague the extent of a promised troop 
withdrawal, he clarified his plan somewhat on Monday: by the end of 
March, Syria will move its soldiers in Lebanon closer to the border. But 
he offered no public timetable to remove any troops from the country.

President Assad and Mr. Lahoud, said in a statement issued Monday after 
they met in Damascus that a pullout of Syria's troops in Lebanon would 
have to wait for further negotiations with a future Lebanese government.

The announcement fell far short of the expectations of demonstrators in 
Lebanon as well as demands by President Bush and European leaders for 
the full withdrawal of the Syrian military and intelligence apparatus 
from Lebanon.

The eclectic opposition - composed of Christian, Druse and Sunni Muslim 
politicians, although notably lacking in Shiite Muslims - believes that 
it has already scored precious points against Syria and is eager to 
press its advantage before parliamentary elections, to be held in May.

The Monday announcement increases the likelihood that Syrian troops will 
still be in the country when Lebanese go to the polls.

But the opposition protesters became emboldened by the resignation last 
week of the pro-Syrian government of Prime Minister Omar Karami, who 
quit in the face of street demonstrations. The opposition, which has 
camped out on Beirut's main square for three weeks, is already gearing 
up for another rally next Monday.

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