Security is tight on the streets of Beirut ahead of a planned demonstration called for by the opposition which is demanding a new government. In a televised address, the head of the pro-Syrian Hezbollah movement Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah urged people to gather for what he called a “peaceful, civilised” rally.
Nasrallah has repeatedly criticised Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s cabinet over what he sees as the government’s failure to back Hezbollah during its war with Israel last summer. A defiant Siniora has said he will not stand down, adding: “Lebanon’s independence is under threat, and its democratic system is in danger. We will not accept the return of the old regency to our country which would make it open to conflict.”
The call for protests comes amid political tension in Lebanon between the pro-Syrian opposition and the anti-Syrian majority, and a week after the assassination of industry minister Pierre Gemayel. His killing, which the government has blamed on Syria, has renewed fears that the country could slip back into the sectarian violence which tore it apart in the 1975-1990 civil war.