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French Version

Nabatieh sees large pro-government turnout (Daily Star)

Banners pledge loyalty to syria and

More than 200,000 people gathered for a demonstrated Sunday in Nabatieh, heeding a call by Hizbullah and other pro-government parties to show loyalty to Syria, reject foreign intervention and denounce UN Security Council Resolution 1559.

The rally is the second in the past week in a series promised by Hizbullah and Amal, and other pro-Syrian parties.

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Many observers said that Hizbullah was flexing its political muscle last week when hundreds of thousands gathered in central Beirut on Tuesday to support the resistance group's "right to bear arms to defend the country."

Nabatieh's central square and the town's main streets were lined with demonstrators Sunday, with even more supporters pouring into the city on foot waving Lebanese flags and chanting anti-American and pro-Syrian slogans.

Their banners proclaimed "Shut up Bush," "Bush, we don't need your democracy" and "Bush, we're in Lebanon, not Ukraine."

Others attacked An-Nahar publisher Gebran Tueni, and called for a boycott of the newspaper. Tueni has drawn the ire of pro-government forces for "dehumanizing" Tuesday's demonstrators.

Other banners denounced Security Council Resolution 1559 as foreign interference and pledged loyalty to Syria and President Bashar Assad.

One banner read: "Syria remains in our hearts and our spirits."

Speakers at the rally emphasized their support for Prime Minister-designate Omar Karami, criticizing the opposition's unwillingness to participate in the formation of the next Cabinet or answer a call for dialogue.

Sunday's rally comes four days after President Emile Lahoud's reappointment of Karami to form a "national unity government."

Representing Amal at Sunday's rally, former minister Ali Hassan Khalil said: "The opposition is taking the country into the unknown by not negotiating their demands through proper means or institutional channels."

He added that all Lebanese want to know who murdered former Premier Rafik Hariri.

Khalil said: "The enemies of Lebanon killed Hariri. Those who plot against our national unity and civil peace and who seek foreign domination over Lebanon are the real killers."

Speaking for Hizbullah and member of the Loyalty to the Resistance parliamentary bloc, Mohammed Raad said: "Parts of the opposition seek to destroy the state and its institutions and create chaos and confusion."

He told the massive crowds: "Your objective is to protect the state, the resistance option, Lebanon's true Arab identity and to know who murdered Premier Rafik Hariri."

Raad added that these objectives could be realized through dialogue and acknowledging the other party's partnership in the country.

He said: "The other party refuses to negotiate, sheds doubts on the investigation, confuses the public and hinders the parliamentary elections."

He added: "Those in the opposition want one thing, which is to destroy Lebanon, believing in an illusion that there will be still a place for them in the country."

Political demonstrations continued throughout Lebanon over the weekend, despite a grim warning from President Emile Lahoud on Saturday that protests could lead to catastrophe in a country once ravaged by factional conflicts.

Speaking to a delegation from the Journalists' Union, Lahoud had said: "If they want to continue demonstrating, a little firecracker will lead to catastrophe. We are not in Georgia and nor are we in Ukraine. We have lived through 17 years of war and this could happen again."

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Beirut 13-03-2005
The Daily Star

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