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Lebanon opposition plans protest

Hezbollah-led opposition groups have called for mass protests to begin on Friday in central Beirut with the aim of bringing down the current government.

Lebanon opposition plans protest

The call for peaceful street action came on Thursday in a statement broadcast on Hezbollah's television station Al-Manar.

 

It said the street action would begin on Friday at 3pm (1300GMT) in central Beirut, where the government of Fouad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, has its headquarters.

 

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, gave a televised speech on the decision to protest.

 

"We appeal to all Lebanese, from every region and political movement, to take part in a peaceful and civilised demonstration on Friday to rid us of an incapable government that has failed in its mission," he said.

 

Marwan Hamadeh, Lebanon's communications minister, reiterated that the pro-Western government will not give in to opposition demands.

  

"The government will not give in. It rests on a comfortable majority in parliament and among the people and has the support of the Arab world and the international community, apart from Syria," Hamadeh said.

  

"Lebanon faces a choice of system - democracy or religious autocracy."

 

Christian opposition

 

Michel Aoun, the head of a Christian opposition group, also called for his supporters to take to the streets to demand the formation of a new national unity government in Lebanon.

 

"We are going to take to the streets peacefully. The other camp is obliging us to do this," Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah, said.

  

"I call on all Lebanese to take part in this movement against the [anti-Syrian] government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora ... there is still a path open to solutions."

 

The call for demonstrations came after weeks of political tension between pro-Syrian groups and anti-Syrian factions over the formation of a unity government and the assassination of Pierre Gemayel, the Lebanese industry minister.

 

Security fears

      

Meanwhile, Michel Sleiman, the Lebanese army chief, has called on his men to "stand ready" to maintain public order in case of mass demonstrations in Beirut.

  

In a statement he said: "I call on all soldiers to stand ready to maintain freedom of expression while preventing disturbances to public order.

 

"The army will not tolerate any damage to public property or any clashes. It considers it stands at an equal distance from both sides," Sleiman said, referring to the deep rift between the groups.

  

"In contrast to the situation on the eve of the outbreak of civil war in 1975, where the army was neutralised by political divisions ... today it stands united and enjoys the trust of the people."

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