Lebanon's Christian hardliner calls for toppling government
Lebanon's opposition Christian hardliner General Michel Aoun has called for demonstrations on Wednesday to topple the western-backed government of Premier Fouad Siniora and praised the activities of the militant Islamic group Hezbollah, the dpa reported.
Aoun indicated that demonstrating is the right of the Lebanese people, but it was the job of the security forces to control riots.
"Rioting is banned. Security forces are responsible for banning riots, not preventing demonstrations," said Aoun, head of the Free Patriotic Movement.
He was referring to a call by Lebanon's labour unions who are planning demonstrations also on Wednesday to protest the high cost of living in the country.
Similar calls for demonstrations in the past have developed into riots and clashes in the streets between followers of the western- backed government and those loyal to the Aoun opposition, led by Syrian-backed Hezbollah.
The Christian leader launched a vehement attack on Progressive Socialist Party leader and anti-Syrian MP Walid Jumblatt for having disclosed that Hezbollah's communications network has reached Christian areas northeast of Beirut.
Aoun defended his close allies Hezbollah and their private communications network which is scattered across the country.
Lebanon's top prosecutor on Monday began investigating allegations by Jumblatt that the militant Hezbollah group set up surveillance cameras near the Beirut airport to monitor the comings and goings of anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians and foreign dignitaries.
"Finding a camera on airport road is not a security penetration," Aoun quipped. "Other roads are full of cameras and they monitor us all the time."
"Jumblatt is factional and bloody," Aoun added.
The allegations have stoked political tensions in the country, giving a new twist to the war of words between Lebanese factions backing the majority and the Hezbollah-led opposition.
Judicial officials said Prosecutor General Saeed Mirza ordered the investigation after receiving documents from the country's defense and interior ministers about Hezbollah's alleged placement of the cameras just outside the airport in the Lebanese capital.
The latest crisis erupted when Jumblatt last week accused Hezbollah of placing the cameras around the airport, which is located in the predominantly Shiite southern Beirut suburbs and is a hotbed for the militant group.
Jumblatt went so far as to say Hezbollah was planning assassinations of senior leaders.
Hezbollah has dismissed the allegations and fired its own accusations against Jumblatt.
Jumblatt also called for the expulsion of Iran's ambassador to Beirut and the ending of weekly Iranian commercial flights to Lebanon because they might carry weapons and money to Hezbollah, Tehran's main ally in Lebanon.
Lebanon's ruling coalition and the opposition, supported by Iran and Syria, are deadlocked over power-sharing in the country. The crisis has prevented the election of a new president.