Saniora: Hizbullah protests danger to democracy

Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said Thursday he will not allow mass demonstrations called by Hizbullah to oust his government, warning that Lebanon's democracy is in danger. In a toughly worded address, he urged the Lebanese to rally behind his beleaguered government, saying only Parliament can take away his mandate. "We will not allow the overthrow of the democratic system, its foundations and its institutions ... We are staying in our place," Saniora said in a nationally televised address from his office on the eve of an expected massive protest by Hizbullah and its allies aimed at ousting his Cabinet. "Lebanon's independence is threatened and its democratic system is in danger," he said, adding: "Do not be afraid and do not despair. We have a rightful cause. Threats will not deter us. Maneuvers and ultimatums will not terrorize us." Saniora, who is backed by the United States and an anti-Syrian parliamentary majority, has been locked in a political power struggle with Hizbullah, which is supported by Syria and Iran, and its allies. He also warned that while the protesters have a right to demonstration his government will not allow "in any way" any attacks on public and private property. Security forces fear Friday's protesters could try to storm government buildings, though Hezbollah has called for the rally to be peaceful. He said the coming days were "decisive for Lebanon's present and future," calling on Lebanese to "stand by your government to preserve national coexistence." He extended his hand to his opponents to discuss the disputes, stressing that only through the political process can his government be brought down. "There is no way to topple the government except through parliament, which grants confidence. Anything else is falsehood, illusion, violation of the constitution and a coup," Saniora added.