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Hundreds of Thousands Commemorate Cedar Revolution in Show of Force Against Hizbullah's Arms
 
 
 
 
 
 
14-03-2011
 
Hundreds of thousands of March 14 supporters gathered at Beirut's Martyrs Square on Sunday at a rally aimed at sending a message to the Hizbullah-led alliance about the people's rejection of the party's weapons.
Convoys could be seen across the country heading to the capital, blaring songs and displaying pictures in support of slain ex-Premier Rafik Hariri.

The massive crowd thronged the Martyrs Square in central Beirut, focal point of the protests six years ago, waving the national flag and the banners of the March 14 parties.

The rally was held amid a heavy deployment of soldiers and security forces in Beirut neighborhoods and at its entrances to guarantee that the event would be free from violence.

An Nahar daily reported that scores of people camped at the square after midnight to guarantee a close place near the podium from where March 14 leaders, headed by Caretaker Premier Saad Hariri, addressed the crowds.

Hariri visited the square on Saturday night to inspect preparations for the rally.

"The people want the fall of arms," the demonstrators chanted amid tight security.

"We are here to say yes to life and no to their arms," said Adnan Antar, 65, who travelled from the northern port city of Tripoli to attend the rally with his family along roads clogged with convoys blaring songs and displaying pictures of Rafik Hariri.

"There can be no rule of the state in Lebanon as long as there is the rule of arms," he added.

Hariri's assassination in a February 14, 2005 Beirut bombing saw the rise of the March 14 alliance, named after a day of massive anti-Syrian protests dubbed the "Cedar Revolution."

Combined with international pressure, the protests in the weeks after the killing led to the pullout of Syrian troops from Lebanon in April 2005, ending 29 years of military and political domination by Damascus.

The rally this year comes as Hizbullah's military might is once again the focus of a deadlock between rival Lebanese camps.

Several demonstrators carried banners reading "NO to the dictatorship of arms" and "God has no arms," in reference to Hizbullah, Arabic for "Party of God."

"We will not stand by as witnesses who fear their reaction which could turn violent," said Salim Eid, 46, a supporter of the Lebanese Forces.

"Let's hope they don't have a violent reaction to this rally here today."

The anniversary comes amid a drawn-out political crisis which saw Hizbullah and its allies topple Saad Hariri's unity government in January, capping a long-running feud over a U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

The tribunal -- tasked with investigating the Rafik Hariri murder -- is reportedly readying to implicate members of Hizbullah in the killing.

Najib Miqati, appointed with Hizbullah's backing, has been tapped to succeed Saad Hariri and has since January 25 sought to form a government.

The Hariri-led opposition has announced it will boycott Miqati's government, which it accuses of being "Hizbullah's cabinet".

Lebanon's new opposition has accused Hizbullah, the only party not to have turned in its arms after the 1975-1990 civil war, of having used its arsenal to intimidate MPs into voting against Hariri's re-appointment after his unity cabinet collapsed.

The March 14 camp also accuses Hizbullah of using its arms during the events of May 2008, when a protracted political crisis culminated in a week of street clashes that killed 100 people.
 
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