|Mass Protests to Begin Friday
|Hizbullah and the opposition forces have called for mass protests to begin Friday in downtown Beirut with the aim of bringing down the Western-backed government.
The call for peaceful street action came in a statement broadcast Thursday on the television stations of Hezbollah and other opposition groups. It said the street action would begin on Friday at 3 p.m. Beirut Time in downtown Beirut, where the embattled government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has its offices.
The leader of the Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, said Thursday that Lebanon's Western-backed government had failed and he called for peaceful protests to force it to resign.
Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government "has proven it is incompetent and has failed to fulfill its promises and achieve anything significant," Nasrallah said in a televised address broadcast on Hizbullah's television station, Al-Manar.
The prime minister and members of his Cabinet have been bracing for mass demonstrations for days. The security forces have been deploying troops and armored vehicles outside government offices, where the prime minister is being held.
The call for protests came after weeks of political tension between groups in the opposition, led by Hizbullah, and factions supporting the government, which has wide Western backing.
The opposition "calls on all the Lebanese of all sects and parties ... to gather peacefully and stage an open-ended sit-in to protest the absence of real political participation and to demand a national unity government, whose priority is to decide a new election law," the statement said.
Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah urged Lebanese to "turn out massively" for the opposition demonstration to press demands for a government of national unity.
It called on supporters to carry only the Lebanese flag and to avoid carrying party banners or posters.
Although the statement said the protest would be peaceful, any attempt by demonstrators to take over government buildings could lead to violence. Previously groups that support Siniora's government have vowed to call counter demonstrations.
It was not clear from the opposition statement whether the groups would attempt to take over government buildings.
Communications Minister Marwan Hamadeh said that Lebanon's cabinet will not give in to mass demonstrations called by the opposition for Friday in support of demands for a national unity government.
The Daily Star