05/10/2008, 00.00
LEBANON

An uneasy calm reigns in Beirut; the international community backs the government

by paul Dakiki
18 are believed to have died in the clashes over the past two days. The United Nations security council and the Arab League are meeting. Only Syria's Assad speaks of a "domestic Lebanese matter".

Beirut (AsiaNews) - A calm loaded with tension reigns in Beirut, after Hezbollah militants took control of the western part of the capital, inhabited mainly by Sunnis.  Armed men are seen patrolling the streets.  The road to the airport is still blocked, as are many other roads in the city.  Clashes continue away from the capital, both to the north and to the south.  But a few bakeries reopened in Beirut today.

But the military victory on the ground - at the cost of 18 deaths and dozens wounded - is provoking strong international reactions.  While Syrian president Bashar Assad maintains that this is a "domestic" matter for Lebanon, tomorrow the Arab League is meeting, Washington has issued a reminder to the security council, and the EU as well as numerous European governments are making statements of support for the government of Fouad Siniora. Siniora, who is secluded under army protection, asserts that he will not reverse the decisions that provoked the violent reaction of Hezbollah and Amal, the two Shiite movements supported by Iran and Syria.  These are the dismantling of the telephone network illegally created by Hezbollah, and the removal of the head of security for the Beirut airport, who permitted Hezbollah to install cameras there to monitor arrivals and departures.

A government statement, read by Samir Geeagea, speaks of an attempted coup d'etat, and affirms that, by turning their weapons against the Lebanese, the Resistance - as Hezbollah likes to be called - has lost all legitimacy.  Particularly serious significance, on the political level, is attributed to the destruction of the television, radio, and newspaper outlets of Saad Hariri, the parliamentary majority leader, in addition to an office of the foundation that bears the name of Rafik Hariri, the prime minister killed in 2005.  A protest demonstration was held today in Bourj al Ghazal.

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