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Thousands gather to commemorate Hariri anniversary

Thousands of people converged on Saturday on central Beirut to mark the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Lebanese former premier Rafiq Hariri.

world Updated: Feb 14, 2009 12:38 IST

Thousands of people converged on Saturday on central Beirut to mark the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Lebanese former premier Rafiq Hariri.

Waving Lebanese flags and carrying pictures of the slain leader, men, women and children gathered under sunny skies in Martyr's Square where members of the parliamentary majority were to address the crowd.

The rally comes as final preparations are underway in The Hague for the launch of the international tribunal set up to bring Hariri's killers to justice.

It also comes as the country prepares for legislative elections in June that will pit Western-backed political parties against a Hezbollah-led alliance backed by Syria and Iran.

Hariri died in a massive car bombing on February 14, 2005 that also killed 22 others. The assassination was widely blamed on then Lebanese power-broker Syria, which has denied any involvement.

The attack on the Beirut seafront was one of the worst acts of political violence to rock Lebanon since the 1975-1990 civil war, and led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops after a 29-year presence.

The UN tribunal to try Hariri's alleged killers is due to open its doors on March 1, housed in the former headquarters of the Dutch intelligence service on the outskirts of The Hague.

The tribunal will also try those presumed responsible for a series of attacks on other Lebanese political and media figures.

Turnout for Saturday's rally is seen by many observers as an indicator of voters' mood ahead of the legislative elections on June 7.

"Their ability to rally people will be carried over at the ballot box," said Osama Safa, head of the Lebanese Centre for Policy Studies.