Amid tightened security measures, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese rallied Saturday at the Martyrs Square in central Beirut to mark the fourth anniversary of the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, dpa reported.
The demonstrators carried Lebanese flags and banners reading "Independence, Sovereignty, Freedom," "Lebanese Unity," and sang the Lebanese national anthem.
The demonstrators carried pictures of Hariri and those of anti- Syrian figures killed in a spate of bombings that followed Hariri's assassination in 2005, including editor and lawmaker Gibran Tueni, journalist Samir Kassir and former secretary general of the Lebanese Communist Party George Hawi.
The mass demonstration was attended by the slain former prime minister's son and leader of the Future bloc, Saad Hariri, among other anti-Syrian figures including Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, Christian leader Samir Geagea and former Lebanese president Amin Gemayel.
The crowd fell silent at 12:55 PM (10:55 GMT), the time that a huge truck bomb exploded on February 14, 2005 on a seaside street of Beirut, as Hariri's motorcade drove by killing him and 20 others.
To mark the moment of explosion, church bells tolled and koranic versus echoed throughout downtown Beirut, prompting the crowd to chant "truth, freedom, national unity with the international tribunal."
Hariri's assassination was widely blamed on Syria and its allies in Lebanon.
Syria has denied involvement but the local and international outcry pressured Damascus to end its 30-year military presence in the country on April 2005.
The UN tribunal to try Hariri's alleged killers is due to open its doors on March 1, housed in the former headquarters of the Dutch intelligence service on the outskirts of The Hague.
"We are here to tell the assassins of Rafik Hariri that we will not stop until we know who killed him and others in Lebanon," said Waheeb Abu Fakhereddine, one participant in the rally.
Lebanon is due to hold its parliamentary elections in June 2009. The race will be tight between the anti-Syrian camp led by Saad Hariri and the opposition led by Hezbollah.
"Today is a gloomy day. At the same time it is a day of victory - victory of Lebanon's freedom and independence," Amin Gemayel, who is also the head of the Christian Phalangist party, told the crowd.
"We promise victory at the coming legislative elections, victory is the actual punishment against the criminals," he said.
"The tragedy of Hariri's assassination has become a path to freedom. We celebrate this anniversary in a Lebanon that is free from all tutelage and as the Special Tribunal for Lebanon draws closer," said Gemayel, whose son Pierre, died in an assassination in 2006.
Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, Hariri's main ally, vowed at the rally that there would be "no compromises" at the UN tribunal or for justice.
"There will be no freedom without justice," Jumblatt said. "No compromise on Arab nationalism or Arab unity or the Arab initiative or the Palestinian cause and the right to return."
For his part, Geagea lashed out at the Syrian regime, and said "if we did not carry out such demonstrations we would not have a country independent of the Syrian tutelage.
"Their masks are off now," he said. "They (Hezbollah-led opposition) want to block Lebanon's governmental institutions...We will not leave our country weak and we will not allow Lebanon to fall again."
Saad Hariri concluded the rally by vowing to the people that "the UN tribunal is coming soon ... we tell them justice is coming and all the people who participated in the assassinations will be punished.
"You the people gathering here today, freed Lebanon from the (Syrian) tutelage..and together we managed to call for the UN international tribunal," Hariri said.
He said the parliamentary elections in June would be a turning point in Lebanon's history.Hariri called for dialogue among all the Lebanese rivals to enable the country to survive and focus on an economic plan to revive the Lebanese economy.