Syria out, say Lebanese Christians and Muslims
Religious leaders reiterate importance of intra-Lebanese dialogue and demand respect for the country's sovereignty.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – More than 100,000 people rallied today demanding the pullout of Syrian troops from Lebanon. Many schools and businesses were shut across the country following a call for a general strike. Many of the opposition groups and young people who descended on Martyrs' Square renamed it Freedom Square.

About 500 m from there Lebanese lawmakers sat in the National Assembly building guarded by 5,000 soldiers, debating a vote of no-confidence in the pro-Syrian regime.

Bahia Hariri, the late Prime Minister's sister, who is also a member of parliament, was first to address the house. In tears, she pointed the finger at the government in her brother's death and asked that light be shed on his assassination.

Other MPs criticised the government and called for its resignation.

Speaking to AsiaNews MP Marwan Hamade, who was himself victim of an attack five months ago, said that the opposition wanted the immediate withdrawal of Syrian troops and the resignation of the government.

National Assembly President Nabih Berri adjourned the session at 6:30 pm.

Whilst lawmakers debated inside, outside young protesters also demanded the government resign and chanted "Syria out" and "Freedom, sovereignty, independence".

In the crowd of Christians and Muslims, there were also some clergymen and some religious men and women.

Many demonstrators said that they would remain in the square until Lebanon regained its full sovereignty.

Religious leaders are however trying to clam the situation fearing that it might get out of hand.

Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir and Greek-Melkite Patriarch Gregorius III Laham have demanded respect for all citizens and emphasised the importance of dialogue.

Imam Kabalan, vice president of the Shiite Higher Islamic Council, exhorted MPs to respect the identity of Lebanon and reminded everyone of their duties as citizens. (YH)

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