Beirut (AsiaNews) - Around 300,000 Lebanese waving flags, handkerchiefs and blue (the ruling coalition’s colour) balloons demonstrated peacefully today in Beirut shouting slogans against Syria and its Lebanese allies, marking with their presence the second anniversary of the terrorist attack that killed former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and 22 other people.
At exactly 12:55 pm the crowd fell silent except for a muezzin making the Islamic call to prayer and the tolling of church bells.
Lebanese army units were deployed in the area, including armed vehicles, and a two-metre (6 feet) barbed wire barrier separated Martyrs Square, where Hariri’s tomb is located and where the rally took place, from Riad al-Solh Square where about a hundred opposition supporters have been on a sit-in since December 1.
The event began with welcoming words from Ghassan Tueni who invited the crowd to repeat the oath his son Gibran—assassinated in December 2005—pronounced after Hariri’s murder, in which he called for Christian-Muslim unity. It continued with speakers from Lebanon’s majority coalition addressing the crowd from behind a bullet-proof glass.
Druze leader Walid Jumblatt did not mince words and accused Syria of being behind the spate of political murders that have occurred in Lebanon in recent years. “This year,” he said, “the tribunal will come and with it retribution.” He was referring to the international tribunal agreed to by the United Nations and the Lebanese government. The tribunal is expected to look into political crimes perpetrated in the country since 2004 and which most likely triggered the country’s current political crisis in November of last year.
Saad al-Hariri, ruling coalition parliamentary leader and son of the slain former premier, did not refrain from attacking the main opposition party, Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah. However, he also called for a dialogue with opposition leaders.
“We are ready for every courageous decision for the sake of Lebanon and for the sake of a solution in Lebanon, but the international tribunal is the only passage for any solution," he said.