[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
*By LEENA SAIDI
and JAD MOUAWAD
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
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
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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