Blair faces angry reception on Lebanon visit

Hundreds of protesters gathered in downtown Beirut Monday as British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Lebanon amid anger over his perceived backing for Israel's month-long blitz. The Lebanese parliament speaker, a close ally of Hizbullah who was supposed to meet with Blair, left town in an apparent snub to the first British leader to visit Lebanon. The country's most senior Shiite Muslim cleric said he held Blair responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Lebanese civilians during the 34-day fighting, because Britain supported the United States in refusing to demand a quick cease-fire to end the war. While Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora greeted Blair at the airport and they drove to the city in a 22-vehicle motorcade, hundreds of demonstrators began gathering in central Beirut to protest the visit as the two leaders met. "Blair, you are not welcome in Lebanon," read a banner carried by protesters. "In the name of the Lebanese people: Thank you for destroying our homes, neighborhoods and memories."