Lebanon prepares for mass protests

Thousands of people are expected to take to the streets of Beirut after Hezbollah-led opposition groups called for mass protests to bring down the current government.

Lebanon prepares for mass protests

The call for peaceful street action came on Thursday in a statement broadcast on Hezbollah's television station Al-Manar.


It said the street action would begin on Friday at 3pm (1300GMT) in central Beirut, where the government of Fouad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, has its headquarters.

Opposition groups had threatened to stage protests last week but postponed them after Pierre Gemayel's assassination.


The anti-Syrian industry minister's funeral turned into a demonstration by hundreds of thousands of government supporters in an outpouring of anger at neighbouring Syria and its allies among the opposition, including Hezbollah.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, gave a televised speech on Thursday about his decision to hold Friday's protests.

"We appeal to all Lebanese, from every region and political movement, to take part in a peaceful and civilised demonstration on Friday to rid us of an incapable government that has failed in its mission," he said.

'Peaceful' protests

Emile Lahoud, the Lebanese president, told UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper that he was confident that the protests would not be the beginning of violent confrontations between supporters of the various political factions.

"All we hope is that whatever happens on the streets will be peaceful because Lebanon has had enough war."

"The resistance [Hezbollah] is not going to shoot Lebanese people, and there will not be a civil war."

He also criticised the government as "no longer legal" because it does not adequately represent the country's religious make-up after the resignation of five Shia ministers.

There has been weeks of political tension between anti-Syrian groups and Syrian supporters over proposals for the formation of a unity government and the decision .


Government appeal

Meanwhile, the

prime minister has appealed to the Lebanese to rally behind his government.


"The government of the independence ... will continue to defend freedom and the democratic regime which are being targeted," Siniora said.
"We will not allow any coup against our democratic regime. We are determined to stay the course, as our government is legitimate and constitutional ... and enjoys the confidence of parliament."


Michel Aoun, the head of a Christian opposition group, also called for his supporters to take to the streets to demand the formation of a new national unity government in Lebanon.


Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah, said: "We are going to take to the streets peacefully. The other camp is obliging us to do this.


"I call on all Lebanese to take part in this movement against the [anti-Syrian] government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora ... there is still a path open to solutions."


Security fears


In a related development, Michel Sleiman, the Lebanese army chief, has called on his men to "stand ready" to maintain public order in case of mass demonstrations in Beirut.


In a statement he said: "I call on all soldiers to stand ready to maintain freedom of expression while preventing disturbances to public order."


"The army will not tolerate any damage to public property or any clashes. It considers it stands at an equal distance from both sides," Sleiman said, referring to the deep rift between the groups.


"In contrast to the situation on the eve of the outbreak of civil war in 1975, where the army was neutralised by political divisions ... today it stands united and enjoys the trust of the people."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16