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News :: International
Biggest Opposition Demo Swears to Break Syria's Stranglehold and Lahoud's Regime
14 Mar 2005
Lebanon's opposition staged the biggest show of force in the nation's modern history from slain ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's graveside Monday, taking a thunderous oath to break Syria's ruthless stranglehold and tear apart President Lahoud's police state of "secret service phantoms."
Between 1.5 and 2 million opposition activists converged on Beirut's downtown Martyrs Square and surrounding neighborhoods to mark the lapse of one month on Hariri's assassination. They shouted slogans demanding the resignation of all security commanders in Lebanon because of dereliction of duty in stopping the assassination.
The demonstration was so huge that Syria's loyalists led by
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's Hizbullah and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri's Amal movement, who pose as standard-bearers of the Shiite community were dwarfed into an overwhelmed minority.

What made the trick was the massive turnout of the Sunni sect onto the streets of the capital to defy Syria's tutelage. Crowds from densely-populated Sunni neighborhoods stood shoulder-to-shoulder with opposition activists from various Christian communities and Walid Jumblat's Druze sect, chanting "we want the truth, we want sovereignty, we want Syria out." The Sunnis make up the biggest bloc among Lebanon's eligible voters.

One poster brandished among an ocean of Lebanese flags read "long live Syria inside Syria." Another poster read "President Lahoud, rest assured your turn is coming," a reference that he might be overthrown over Hariri's assassination.

Legislator Marwan Hamadeh, who survived an assassination attempt in October, formally opened the sit-in protest by declaring that the massive opposition was "writing the end of President Lahoud's police state and its Syrian backers." He drew thunderous cheers when he announced "this is the end to the one whose regime has been extended and to those who extended his regime." Hamadeh, a former minister under Hariri's premiership, said "the days of the secret service, the days of the ghosts are numbered."

Another moving address was delivered to the crowds by An Nahar's General Manager Gebran Tueni who declared "you are the biggest party in Lebanon. You are the party of Lebanon." He left the impression that the opposition Party of Lebanon was bigger than the Party of God.

Hundreds of thousands trekked overland and by sea in bus and motorboat convoys to fill the sprawling Martyrs Square and the nearby Riad Solh Square to the brim. Thousands upon thousands assembled at rooftops and nearby highway passes in what old-timers said was the biggest demonstration since Lebanon's 1943 independence.

There were outspoken charges before the demonstration leveled by opposition leaders, accusing the Lahoud regime of standing behind the assassination.

"The secret services have become a death machine, a death mill toiling without letup," had said Hariri's parliament bloc member Walid Ido.

Ido spoke on Hariri's Future-TV network screen a few hours after ex-Defense Minister Mohsen Dalloul directly accused the Lahoud regime of involvement in Hariri's assassination, revealing that a police unit assigned to protect the ex-premier was withdrawn a few days before the crime.

"Hariri had worked out an agreement with President Lahoud to have the police unit assigned to protect and escort him as a former prime minister. The force was actually put on the job and it functioned from Hariri's Koreitem mansion," Dalloul said in an interview aired by the F-TV Sunday night.

"When Hariri's aides managed to reach the official responsible for the protection unit, he said Hariri has plenty of money and he can hire his own security apparatus," said Dalloul, a parliament member who served as defense minister in one of Hariri's governments.

"The crime took place a few days later and now officials are boasting that 'the crime is behind us,' which means they have committed the crime," Dalloul added.

Beirut, Updated 14 Mar 05, 17:20
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