| 28.11,11. 08:30 AM |
Tens of Thousands Rally in Tripoli for 'Arms Fall, Independence Spring'
Tens of thousands of supporters of the opposition gathered Sunday in the northern city of Tripoli to denounce the Syrian regime and its Lebanese ally Hizbullah, under the slogan “The Fall of Weapons, The Spring of Independence.”
The rally organized by the Mustaqbal Movement, the main opposition party headed by ex-premier Saad Hariri, came amid mounting tension over the financing of the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the revolt in neighboring Syria.
"We initially backed Sheikh Saad for the sake of Lebanon's freedom, but now we also support him for Syria's freedom and to rid the country of Hizbullah's weapons and the regime of (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad," said Mohammed Alameddin, 27.
Mohammed Hamdash, a 40-year-old bank employee, said he was taking part in the demonstration in the northern port city to denounce the Hizbullah-led government.
"We are here to say that we are against this government imposed by Hizbullah," he said, as fellow demonstrators waved Lebanese and party flags as well as pictures of Saad Hariri and his father Rafik.
In the the first speech during the rally, Mustaqbal bloc MP Mohammed Kabbara said “Assad’s hegemony over Lebanon must be toppled and we should put an end to the criminal weapons that are accused of killing our martyrs.”
“This government will first fall in Tripoli before it falls in the rest of Lebanon and there is nothing called the Resistance, as those who send gunmen to Syria to attack its people are not a resistance movement,” Kabbara said.
Prime Minister Najib Miqati has threatened to resign should his cabinet refuse to pay Lebanon's 49 percent share of funding to the STL. The ministers of the Free Patriotic Movement have also hinted that they might resign over dissatisfaction with the government’s performance and Miqati’s policies.
“Haven’t they learned from the Beirut Spring that people are stronger than all tyrants and that police states would fall in the face of the people’s resolve,” Mustaqbal bloc MP Samir al-Jisr said in his speech at the rally.
“This government does not need to be toppled because it is already toppled in people’s minds, as it rose to power through a coup perpetrated on a black day … after the disavowal of the promises and the pledges,” he added.
“What kind of a ‘resistance act’ was being plotted in Tripoli and why are the seized weapons being described as arms belonging to the Resistance?” Jisr wondered, accusing Hizbullah of arming groups in the northern city.
For his part, MP Marwan Hamade -- who had broken from the Democratic Gathering parliamentary bloc of Druze leader Walid Jumblat over refusal to vote for Miqati for the premiership in the binding parliamentary consultations -- urged the premier “not to allow the killers to remain on the loose.”
“I will not feel sorry for Hizbullah’s falling and tumbling government and I will never forgive Assad’s criminal regime,” Hamade stressed.
“I call on him (Miqati), from here, not to let justice be defeated at the hands of his limping government and never to forgive those who had first slaughtered his friend, ex-PM martyr Rafik Hariri, before slaying the son of his city, the hero and young martyr (slain Intelligence Bureau officer) Wissam Eid,” Hamade went on to say.
He urged President Michel Suleiman and Speaker Nabih Berri “not to let Lebanon be captivated by the grand prison.”
“I will not urge the party which has described the accused as being sacred (Hizbullah) or the Aounist movement (of MP Michel Aoun) … because they are part of the grand prison of totalitarianism,” Hamade charged.
"Who would fear the tribunal other than the accused, the criminals and the accomplices who are covering up for them.”
Hamade called for returning to “the democratic roots.”
“No to eliminating anyone in the name of fake proportional representation,” the MP said of the proposed proportional representation electoral system, which has been slammed by Jumblat on fear it might slash his parliamentary bloc.
“No my brother, Najib, tomorrow will not be another day as you have claimed, as those present here are pursuing the path of freedom and justice,” Hamade vowed.
He also called on the Arab League to launch “an initiative that would besiege the killer of Damascus,” calling on the Lebanese authorities to “implement the Arab initiative in its entirety.”
Meanwhile, MP Boutros Harb said that Hizbullah’s weapons have “impeded national dialogue and put us before two choices: compliance or civil war.”
But he wondered “among whom would civil war erupt if all the Lebanese do not want that.”
“Weapons would eventually kill those carrying them and we don’t want to kill or be killed,” Harb stressed.
The STL has indicted four Hizbullah operatives in connection with the murder. The party has refused to hand over the four members and has dismissed the court as an “American-Israeli plot.”
Miqati was appointed premier after Hizbullah and its allies forced the collapse of Saad Hariri's government over its refusal to cut ties with the court based in The Netherlands.
Although Miqati pledged after taking office to uphold Lebanon's international commitments, Hizbullah and its allies in the cabinet are insisting that the country stop all cooperation with the tribunal.
The funding of the STL is due to be discussed at a crucial cabinet meeting next Wednesday.