Huge crowd marks Hariri anniversary in Lebanon

February 15, 2007 05:33


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Government supporters carrying balloons and Lebanese flags filled a downtown square to remember a slain former prime minister and criticize Syria. Hizbullah-led opposition supporters looked on from behind razor wire separating the two sides. The mood was subdued amid fears the divided country could erupt - and exhaustion over the prolonged political crisis. Hundreds of troops were deployed to deter a clash between the sides a day after bombs tore through buses and killed three people. Wednesday's demonstration, which ended in the afternoon without incident, lacked the fervor seen at past protests mounted by both sides of Lebanon's political spectrum. However, clashes erupted in the eastern Bekaa Valley late Wednesday between government supporters, who were returning home from Beirut, and opposition activists. Several people were injured in the fights and gunfire, police said. Tens of thousands of supporters of the US-backed government packed Martyrs Square to commemorate Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister killed in a suicide bombing on Feb. 14, 2005. Save for a few outbursts of slogan chanting and small groups singing and dancing to the beat of drums, the rally was uneventful.

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