Lebanese Army Ready to Crack down on anti-Syrian Protestors
Lebanese army troops heavily deployed late Tuesday in the capital after authorities warned supporters of exiled former prime minister Michel Aoun not to stage protests in front of Syrian forces against their presence in the country, said reports.
The Lebanese army released a statement Monday warning people against "instigating citizens to riot," reported the Daily Star newspaper, saying the call came in response to the distribution of flyers on Sunday and Monday by members of the Free Patriotic Movement.
AFP said that army troops, backed by military vehicles and armored personnel carriers, took up position at Beirut's main crossroads and staged patrols on the main avenues.
Soldiers erected checkpoints on main roads, stopping cars and checking identity cards, they said.
The deployment came after supporters of staunchly anti-Syrian Aoun announced plans to stage "peaceful" sit-ins on Wednesday, the 14th anniversary of Aoun's failed attempt to drive the Syrians out of the country.
"We are all called upon to gather peacefully and non-violently in front of Syrian positions around the presidential palace, the defense ministry, the American University of Beirut, the Lebanese University ... ,” a statement said, cited by the agency.
Minister of Information, Ghazi Aridi, was quoted by Lebanon’s official news agency as saying Tuesday that ”the state is keen on maintaining the principle of freedom and democracy in Lebanon; however, he warned against the danger of organizing sectarian campaigns. Aridi went on to call for discussing all issues and matters at stake and for listening to comments brought forward by all Lebanese.
Pro-Syria political factions condemned the move on their part. According to Syrian news agency (SANA), the Democratic Naserite Movement “ denounced the suspicious moves being taken in this historical phase with the aim of destabilizing internal security in Lebanon.”
Aoun, a Christian, was banished from Lebanon in 1991 after being ousted from the presidential palace by Syrian and Lebanese forces led by current president Emile Lahoud, the then Lebanese army commander.
Aoun agreed to stay abroad for five years and still lives in Paris.
Syria maintains around 35,000 troops and wields great political influence in Lebanon – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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