Lebanon's Hizbullah-led opposition called on Saturday for a general strike next week as part of efforts to step up its campaign against the pro-Western Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's government.
The group, led by the militant Shi'ite Hizbullah party, said the strike, which would start Tuesday, would be a response to Saniora's failure to meet the "legitimate and rightful demands of the people."
"The opposition is resorting to its popular base as a means for escalating the peaceful and democratic protest, and calls on the Lebanese to freely express their national and political choice," said the group's statement, faxed to The Associated Press.
It also said the government had "belittled and scoffed at the massive, democratic, well-mannered and civilized protests and sit-ins in downtown Beirut," launched December 1.
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