About 2,000 protesters have taken to the streets today to object to British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s first visit to Lebanon. He was meeting Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to discuss a UN truce in effect since August 14 and Britain’s contribution to post-war reconstruction. However, several cabinet ministers refused to meet him. Heavy security surrounded today’s visit with troops, barbed-wire barriers and riot police keeping demonstrators well away from the government building in downtown Beirut.
Today’s demonstrations, organised by Hizbollah and its pro-Syrian allies, condemn Blair for supporting Israel and Washington in the recent conflict. In particular, Blair angered many Lebanese for refusing to call for an early ceasefire during Israel’s 34-day war with Hizbollah. Speaking today, Mr. Blair said: “The most important thing now for the future is that we stand with you and rebuild. But we will not be able to do that unless we deal with the root causes of what has happened. If we don’t deal with the root causes, then innocent people will continue to die.”