Lebanon Unrest Marks Worst Crisis in Years

Bombing and Riots Could Reflect Spillover From Syria War

By Reuters

Published October 22, 2012.
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“Wissam al-Hassan has one enemy - Bashar al-Assad,” said Beirut MP Nouhad Mashnouq, a leading member of the March 14 opposition bloc led by Saad al-Hariri, son of the slain ex-premier.

Mashnouq said the cases Hassan had brought against Samaha and Mamlouk were actions against Syria unprecedented in the history of Lebanon.

Despite the accusations from Lebanese politicians, both the Assad government and Hezbollah condemned the bombing.

The immediate destabilising effect of Friday’s blast can already be seen on the streets. Angry mourners tried to storm Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s offices in central Beirut after the funeral, breaking through a security barrier and scuffling with police who fired in the air in response.

“Mikati leave, get out,” chanted hundreds of protesters. They also chanted slogans against Assad, whom they accused of being behind the killing of Hassan.

The protesters blame Mikati’s pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian-dominated coalition government for failing to provide security or respond effectively to the killing.

UNREST SPREADING

Displeasure with Mikati came as spreading unrest raised fears among Lebanese that their country could slide back into the sectarian strife that haunted them for decades.

Mikati, a Sunni Muslim whom many see as unwilling to confront Hezbollah, said he had offered to step down, but that President Michel Suleiman asked him “to stay on to avoid letting Lebanon slide into turmoil”.

Syria’s civil war is already being played out on the streets of Tripoli in northern Lebanon, where fighting has erupted between Sunni fighters and Alawites.


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