Supporters of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri took to the streets in north Lebanon on Tuesday to protest the expected nomination of Hezbollah-backed Najib Mikati to form the next government.
AP - Thousands of Sunnis waved flags and burned tires Tuesday in a “day of rage” to protest gains by the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which is on the brink of controlling Lebanon’s next government.
The Iranian-backed group considered a terrorist organization by Washington secured support in parliament Monday to name its own candidate, former premier Najib Mikati, for the next prime minister.
The militant group’s Western-backed opponents maintain that having an Iranian proxy in control of Lebanon’s government would be disastrous and lead to international isolation.
Hassan Nasrallah defends Hezbollah against Hariri charges
Hezbollah’s Sunni rivals held protests in different parts of Lebanon, including the northern city of Tripoli, the capital Beirut and the main highway linking the capital with the southern port city of Sidon.
The largest gathering was in Tripoli, where thousands of people converged at a major square calling on Mikati not to accept the post and shouting slogans backing caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Protesters attacked a truck belonging to Al-Jazeera television and set it on fire. The station confirmed the vehicle belonged to Al-Jazeera.
Mikati urged calm Tuesday and said he wanted to represent all of Lebanon.
“This is a democratic process,” he told reporters. “I want to rescue my country.”
Lebanon’s President Michel Suleiman started a second day of consultations Tuesday with lawmakers to name a prime minister, but Mikati already has the 65 votes needed to clinch the position.
Hezbollah brought down Hariri’s Western-backed government on Jan. 12 when he refused the group’s demand to cease cooperation with a U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Hezbollah, which denies any role in the killing, is widely expected to be indicted.
The group can now either form its own government, leaving Hariri and his allies to become the opposition, or it can try to persuade Hariri to join a national unity government. In a speech Sunday night, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said he favored a unity government.
Hariri said Monday he will not join a government headed by a Hezbollah-backed candidate. Hariri’s Future bloc declared a day of peaceful protests Tuesday but called it a “day of rage” and played on the sectarian dimension of the conflict.
Lawmaker Moustafa Alloush said Monday night that Hezbollah is trying to “belittle the prime ministry” a position that under Lebanon’s power sharing system is reserved only for Sunnis.
“Any person who accepts Hezbollah’s appointment of prime minister is a betrayal of the people of Tripoli,” Alloush said in a heated news conference, jabbing his finger toward the cameras.
Hariri’s coalition issued a statement last week saying Hezbollah is trying to turn Lebanon into an “Iranian base” and was using intimidation to get its way. Hezbollah has emphasized that the group brought down Lebanon’s government democratically and without resorting to violence.
The United States, which has poured in $720 million in military aid since 2006, has tried to move Lebanon firmly into a Western sphere and end the influence of Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley warned Monday that continuing U.S. support for Lebanon would be “problematic” if Hezbollah takes a dominant role in the government, though he declined to say what the U.S. would do if Hezbollah’s candidate becomes prime minister.
Date created : 2011-01-25