Lebanese Shiites renew threats of mass protests

The leaders of Lebanon's two main Shiite Muslim parties renewed their threat of mass protests against the government Friday, deepening the crisis in a country where businesses are on strike and ministers fear for their lives after this week's assassination of a colleague. "We insist on our legitimate right to demand a real participation in the political decision-making," Hizbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah and Amal leader Nabih Berri said in a statement, referring to their claim of a veto-wielding share of the Cabinet. Beirut was tense after several hundred supporters of the pro-Syrian Hizbullah briefly took to the streets on Thursday night, burning tires and blocking the road to the airport until Nasrallah ordered them home. But the US-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora moved ahead with an issue that was likely to further anger Hizbullah. The Cabinet was due to meet Saturday to give its final approval to a UN-created international court to try suspects in the February 2005 killing of former prime minister Rafik Hariri.