Protesters have gathered for a demonstration that highlights deep divisions among the people of Lebanon. Rallies in Beirut have most recently called for Syria to pull its troops out of the country. But today’s big event is a staunch defence of Damascus and a rejection of what those taking part see as foreign interference. It has been called by Hizbollah, Lebanon’s most powerful party.
Its leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said the protest would thank Syria for what he called its sacrifices in Lebanon. Syrian soldiers meanwhile are continuing preparations to pullback to the Bekaa Valley. Syria has promised to redeploy its troops to eastern Lebanon this month under a two-stage withdrawal.
It made the pledge under intense pressure from the international community and the Lebanese opposition. No timetable has been set for a complete departure of Syrian forces although officials in Damascus say it will include all security personnel.
Washington has dismissed the plan, complaining of what it calls “half measures.” The assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister last month was the trigger for an anti-Syrian outcry. Damascus denies having any hand in Rafik al-Hariri’s murder.