Lebanon marks 2nd anniversary of Hariri assassination with harsh criticism against Syria, Hizbullah
Lebanon's majority leaders told thousands of supporters marking the second anniversary of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's assassination in Beirut that agreeing on the international tribunal to try his murderers is the only gateway to dialogue and unity.
Lebanese Forces Leader Samir Geagea said the international tribunal, which Syria reportedly rejects, "will certainly be created." He stressed that "whoever fights against what is right will be knocked out … The international tribunal will certainly be created."
Geagea escalated the confrontation with Hizbullah pledging that "henceforth, we will not accept any weapons outside the Lebanese army's frame of control...The Lebanese army is the resistance, the Lebanese government is the resistance, the Lebanese people is the resistance."
Addressing the pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, Geagea said: "History has settled its account with any tyrant …at the end (of your term) you will go away to history's garbage dump."
Druze leader Walid Jumblat stressed in his address that the year 2007 will see the creation of the international tribunal to try suspects in the Hariri murder and related crimes. "We will not surrender to terrorism and to authoritarian parties, be they Syrian or otherwise," Jumblat said.
Addressing Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah without mentioning him by name, Jumblat said: "Give the weapons to the Lebanese army and the hay to your allies." Jumblat stated that "we adhere to international (U.N. Security Council) resolutions. All international resolutions." He also slammed Assad terming him "a snake .. a beast .. an Israeli product .. a liar .. a criminal." "This year will witness the creation of the international tribunal, justice will be served and the punishment will be a death sentence," Jumblat pledged.
Parliamentary Majority leader Saad Hariri, son of the slain ex-premier, delivered an emotional speech in which he thanked all those who took part in the ceremony and stressed that the Lebanese are "committed to freedom, independence, the truth, justice and the international tribunal." "We adhere to justice to punish the murderers" who committed the Hariri killings and related crimes, he said, acording to Naharnet.
He condemned recent "aggressions on peaceful neighborhoods" by masked followers of the Hizbullah-led opposition on Jan. 23. "Despite all that, we are in the final phase of the march to create the international tribunal soon, very soon," Hariri said.
"Lebanon will be victorious and Lebanon's enemies will be defeated," he pledged.
Hariri concluded by stressing that "we are ready for any brave decision in favor of Lebanon … but the international tribunal is the sole gateway to any solution."
Earlier, thousands of Lebanese gathered Wednesday at the grave of Hariri as the government deployed hundreds of soldiers to avoid clashes with the opposition. Hariri’s family members, Premier Fouad Saniora, several cabinet ministers and March 14 politicians prayed for Hariri’s soul at the gravesite near al-Amin mosque.
At 12:55 p.m., the exact time of the one-ton explosion that killed Hariri two years ago, an angry crowd fell silent as church bells tolled and mosque minarets blared Allah Akbar chants.
Troops deployed in and around Martyrs' Square, where the country's two main rival groups were present: government supporters commemorating Hariri's death and opposition supporters continuing their daily sit-in to demand the government's resignation. The soldiers set up a razor wire barrier to separate the two camps. According to the AP, police conducted body searches of people arriving in the square.
The government, which has faced months of demonstrations calling for its resignation, declared Wednesday a national holiday, closing schools, universities, banks and public institutions in a move that would allow for a big turnout. In an attempt to allow the anniversary to pass peacefully, the major opposition figure, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, hailed the late Hariri in a letter published on the front page of As-Safir newspaper Wednesday. Nasrallah said Hariri's killing in a massive truck bomb on Feb. 14, 2005, was a loss for the whole country.
Finding the perpetrators has become "a collective national demand," Nasrallah wrote.
The army deployed troops on highways to prevent friction between rival supporters as they approached the city center. Many roads were completely sealed off except for buses on designated routes that were expected to bring in government supporters from outlying areas.