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News :: Human Rights
Lebanese riot police break up anti-Syria protest
13 Mar 2004
Lebanese riot police backed by the army beat protesters and used water cannon to break up an anti-Syria demonstration in Beirut on Friday.
Tensions have escalated this week between government forces and student protesters, many of them supporters of General Michel Aoun, an exiled former Lebanese army general fiercely opposed to Syria's military and political domination of Lebanon.

About 1,000 members of the security forces massed in central Beirut, where an estimated 300 student supporters of Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) defied a ban on demonstrations the government has imposed ahead of mayoral elections in May.
"We don't want our deputies to be doormen for the Syrians," they shouted. One group unfurled a huge Lebanese flag.
One protester dressed as al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden carried a fake gun and a sign saying "The Syrian Regime."

Security forces, with army backup, beat back marchers with batons and fired water cannon at them, Reuters witnesses said.

Syria poured troops into Lebanon early in the country's 1975-1990 civil war to save Christians from defeat by Muslim, Palestinian and leftist forces but turned on them when they sided with arch-foe Israel.

It keeps about 15,000 troops in Lebanon but has made small redeployments in recent years.

FPM member Fadi Barakat said the government had crushed the protest before the municipal elections because "most of the Lebanese population are not going to support the government."

"We have no free elections," protester Marc Charbel said. "Syria has its hand on Lebanon's military, society and politics."

An FPM statement said 20 protesters were wounded and several arrests were made. It did not say how many.

Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon is among U.S. demands in Washington's Syria Accountability Act, signed by President George W. Bush in December. 13 Mar 04 - Reuters
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