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Friday, December 1, 2006

Lebanese PM vows to defy protests

Lebanese PM vows to defy protests

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has said his government will not
be brought down by mass protests planned by pro-Syrian opposition groups.
Speaking live on national television, Mr Siniora said: "We will not
allow any coup against our democratic system."

His remarks came on the eve of a huge anti-government demonstration
called by the Hezbollah movement and its allies.

Tensions in Lebanon have soared after a leading anti-Syrian minister was
killed and pro-Syrian MPs quit the cabinet.

Growing crisis

In his address, Mr Siniora appealed to Lebanese to stand firm in the
face of threats against his government.

"Fellow Lebanese, we have ahead of us decisive days for Lebanon and its

"We will not allow any coup against our democratic regime. We are
determined to stay the course, as our government is legitimate and
constitutional... and enjoys the confidence of parliament," he said.

Lebanon's pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud has declared the government
unconstitutional following the resignations earlier this month of five Shia
ministers and one Christian ally.

The ministers quit after Hezbollah's call for more cabinet seats for it
and its allies was rejected.

Hezbollah has been threatening to hold mass protests for weeks in
support of its demand, which would effectively give it a veto over decisions.

Earlier on Thursday, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah also made
a televised address, urging Lebanese to join protests.

"We appeal to all Lebanese, from every region and political movement, to
take part in a peaceful and civilised demonstration on Friday to rid us of an
incapable government that has failed in its mission," he said.

The pro-Syrian opposition has also condemned the cabinet's decision to
approve a plan for an international tribunal to try suspects in the murder of
former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

A UN inquiry has implicated Syrian officials in Mr Hariri's death in
2005, an allegation Syria strongly denies.

Lebanon's political crisis intensified last week with the assassination
in Beirut of anti-Syrian Maronite Christian politician Pierre Gemayel.

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