- Title: LEBANON: Lebanese Prime Ministre Fouad Siniora vows to defy Hezbollah "coup"
- Date: 10th May 2008
- Summary: (BN10) BEIRUT, LEBANON (MAY 10, 2008) (REUTERS) WIDE OF FIRES RAGING/ WATER SPRAYING FROM FIRE ENGINE CLOSEUP OF FLAMES RISING FROM A SHOP BELONGING TO AN ALLEGED SHOOTER AT FUNERAL OF PRO-GOVERNMENT LOYALISTS FIRE ENGINE AND CIVIL DEFENCE PERSONNEL DOUSING FIRE VARIOUS OF FIRES SITE OF FUNERAL SHOOTING/BLOOD STAINS/ CAR BURNING IN BACKGROUND MORE OF BLOOD STAINS BODY IN MORGUE (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) MOTHER OF ONE OF DEAD SAYING: "May God not forgive them. My son had nothing to do with anything. He just went to his friend's funeral. He told me he had to because they were martyrs. May God not have mercy on them. All of them." BODY IN MORGUE OF DEAD MAN KILLED IN FUNERAL SHOOTING
- Embargoed: 25th May 2008 16:50
- Location: Lebanon
- Country: Lebanon
- Topics: War / Fighting
- Reuters ID: LVA8933LDVQ00CIWHJJ53W22NXHS
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora says the state will not fall into the hands of the Shi'ite Hezbollah movement which he accuses of launching a coup by taking control of Beirut. Siniora's comments come as five gunmen die in clashes east of Beirut and in north Lebanon, and two people are killed in the capital as shots are fired at the funeral of a government supporter.
Lebanon's U.S.-backed Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said on Saturday (May 10) the state would not fall into the hands of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah which he accused of launching a coup by taking control of Beirut.
"Your state will not fall under the control of the putschists," Siniora said in a televised address to the Lebanese. It was his first response since Hezbollah and allied fighters routed pro-government gunmen in west Beirut on Friday.
Hezbollah's takeover, a blow to U.S. policy, left Siniora's government reeling and strengthened Hezbollah's position as the most powerful group in Lebanon after a 17-month power struggle with the governing coalition.
Fighting, which has so far killed 27 people, erupted after the government said on Tuesday (May 6) it was taking action against Hezbollah's military communications network and sacked the head security at Beirut airport, who is close to the Shi'ite group.
Hezbollah, a powerful anti-Israeli guerrilla group which is backed by Syria, said the anti-Damascus government had declared war.
"We have not and will not declare war on Hezbollah and the proof is that there were no fighters to counter them but at the same time we will not agree to the storming of neighbourhoods and homes and the killing of innocent civilians and for Hezbollah to impose its war on the Lebanese state and people," Siniora told a news conference on Saturday.
Lebanon's top Shi'ite Cleric Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said that action taken by the government against Hezbollah's military communications network was to protect Israel and the United States and was not in the interest of Lebanon.
''The government decision regarding (Hezbollah) communications was not meant to defend Lebanon but to protect Israel and America. Israel is afraid of Hezbollah's weapons and also its security apparatus including its communications," Fadlallah told Lebanon's NBN Television Network.
The Lebanese army later on Saturday overturned two government measures against Hezbollah that had triggered the group to take control of Beirut and the military urged gunmen to withdraw from the streets.
The army said in a statement it was keeping the head of the security at Beirut airport in his post and that it would handle Hezbollah's communications network in a way "that would not harm public interest and the security of the resistance".
Lebanon's U.S.-backed Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said earlier on Saturday that he was putting the two issues, which have sparked the worst fighting in Lebanon since the 1975-90 civil war, into the hands of the Lebanese army.
Five gunmen died in clashes on Saturday east of Beirut and in north Lebanon, while two people were killed in the capital when shots were fired at the funeral of a government supporter.
The United States, which considers Hezbollah a terrorist group, a threat to Israel, and a weapon in the hands of Iran, said it was talking with other powers about taking measures against "those responsible for the violence".
On the streets of Beirut, fighters from the Iranian- and Syrian-backed group continued to man checkpoints on main thoroughfares, although in smaller numbers than a day earlier.
Traffic was thin as many residents stayed at home. Beirut's international airport remained closed.
A few shops reopened after the army deployed in several areas but did not interfere with Hezbollah guerrillas, who in turn stayed away from main government installations in Beirut.
The United States said it was "very troubled" by Hezbollah's actions in Beirut and criticised the group's links to Damascus and Tehran.
Christian districts in east Beirut have been spared the fighting after Hezbollah defeated forces loyal to parliamentary majority leader Saad al-Hariri. Hariri's supporters still controlled areas in the north of the country and kept a key crossing point with Syria in the Bekaa Valley shut.
Hariri is a son of the late Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, whose assassination three years ago began the worst turmoil since the 1975-1990 civil war, which split Beirut into eastern Christian and western Muslim sections.
Hezbollah's show of military might is alarming the West and its Sunni Arab allies who fear Iran's growing influence in the region.
Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which back Lebanon's government, called for an Arab foreign ministers meeting on Sunday (May 11).
Lebanon's anti-Syria ruling coalition said the "armed and bloody coup" was aimed at increasing Iran's influence and restoring that of Syria, forced to withdraw troops from Lebanon in 2005 following Hariri's assassination.
Syria said the issue was an internal Lebanese affair while Iran blamed "the adventurist interferences" of the United States and Israel for the violence.
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