Masked supporters of transition Prime Minister Sa'ad Hairi fired a grenade at Lebanese Army soldiers in Beirut, reported Lebanese news network NBN on Tuesday.

This came after a majority of Lebanese lawmakers on Tuesday have voted to support the candidate for prime minister backed by Iranian ally Hizbullah.

By the end of Tuesday's voting, Najib Mikati had 68 votes. Caretaker Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri had 60.

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The Shi'ite militant group is now in position to control Lebanon's next government.

Thousands of Sunnis waved flags and burned tires earlier Tuesday in a "day of rage" to protest gains by the Shi'ite group Hizbullah.

The guerrilla group's Western-backed opponents maintain that having an Iranian proxy in control of Lebanon's government would be disastrous and lead to international isolation.

Hizbullah's Sunni rivals held protests in different parts of Lebanon, mainly in the northern city of Tripoli, the capital Beirut and the main highway linking the capital with the southern port city of Sidon.

The largest gathering was in Tripoli, where thousands of people converged at a major square calling on Mikati not to accept the post and shouting slogans backing caretaker Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri.

Mikati urged calm Tuesday and said he wanted to represent all of Lebanon.

"This is a democratic process," he told reporters. "I want to rescue my country."

Hizbullah brought down Hariri's Western-backed government on Jan. 12 when he refused the group's demand to cease cooperation with a UN-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Hizbullah, which denies any role in the killing, is widely expected to be indicted.

The group can now either form its own government, leaving Hariri and his allies to become the opposition, or it can try to persuade Hariri to join a national unity government. In a speech Sunday night, Hizbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said he favored a unity government.

Hariri said Monday he will not join a government headed by a Hizbullah-backed candidate.

Hariri's coalition issued a statement last week saying Hizbullah is trying to turn Lebanon into an "Iranian base" and was using intimidation to get its way. Hizbullah has emphasized that the group brought down Lebanon's government democratically and without resorting to violence.

The United States, which has poured in $720 million in military aid since 2006, has tried to move Lebanon firmly into a Western sphere and end the influence of Hizbullah, Syria and Iran.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley warned Monday that continuing US support for Lebanon would be "problematic" if Hizbullah takes a dominant role in the government, though he declined to say what the US would do if Hizbullah's candidate becomes prime minister.


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