Hariri followers gather in northern Lebanon for "day of rage"

Hariri followers gather in northern Lebanon for "day of rage"

Hundreds of followers of caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri gathered in the northern city of Tripoli on Tuesday for a "day of anger" called to protest his possible replacement by a candidate favoured by the fundamentalist organization Hezbollah, DPA reported.

Followers of Hariri's Future movement, carrying Lebanese flags and pictures of the premier, arrived al Nour Square, chanting "we will not accept a coup against Hariri by Hezbollah and their allies."

Hariri's government collapsed on January 12, after Hezbollah and their allies resigned from the cabinet, plunging the country into a political crisis which many fear might lead to civil strife.

Hezbollah and their allies resigned over disagreements concerning the UN tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of Hariri's father, Former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Schools, banks and business were shut down in Tripoli, a stronghold of Hariri and the Sunni Muslim sect.

Similar protests were planned in other regions, including in Beirut and the mainly Sunni southern coastal city of Sidon.

Hariri's Future movement on Monday accused Hezbollah of staging a coup and called for peaceful protests across the country.

The call came after it became clear the Hezbollah-led coalition had secured enough votes in the 128-seat parliament to have billionaire businessman Najib Mikati head the next government.

Mikati's likely appointment to the highest Sunni post in the country, has angered the Sunni community, who see it as a bid by Hezbollah to sideline Hariri.

Protests broke out on Monday in mainly Sunni regions, including Tripoli, Sidon and several west Beirut neighborhoods with demonstrators burning tyres. There were no reports of injuries.

Meanwhile, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman continued consultations with the various parliamentary blocs to name a new premier.

On Monday, 49 legislators backed Hariri against 59 who nominated Mikati.

The tense situation in Lebanon prompted many western embassies in Lebanon to call on their citizens to take precautions.

"The embassy urges US citizens to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security," the US embassy said in a statement.

   According to Lebanon's political system, which seeks to distribute power among the country's religious groups, the president should be a Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and parliament's House Speaker a Shiite Muslim

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