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Lebanon marks Hariri's killing despite blasts

Anti-Syrian leaders have called for a mass rally to commemorate the second anniversary of Rafik Hariri's killing despite deadly bus bombings.

india Updated: Feb 14, 2007 12:04 IST

Lebanon plans to mark the second anniversary of Rafik al-Hariri's assassination on Wednesday and anti-Syrian leaders have called for a mass rally to commemorate the killing despite deadly bus bombings.

Saad al-Hariri, the former prime minister's son, and his governing coalition allies called for the Beirut gathering as a show of support for the government as it tries to fend off a strong challenge from opponents including Hezbollah.

Hariri said the rally would go ahead despite bombs on two buses which killed three people on Tuesday in a Christian area.

His coalition blamed the bombs on Damascus, which they also accuse of the February 14, 2005 bombing that killed his father and a string of subsequent attacks on anti-Syrian figures.

Syria has always denied involvement in the assassination, which triggered international pressure that forced Damascus to withdraw thousands of troops from Lebanon in 2005, ending years of Syrian domination.

The rally near Hariri's grave is due to start at 10 am.

Wire fences have been put up to keep government loyalists apart from opposition activists who have been camped nearby since December 1, part of an opposition campaign to demand veto power in cabinet.

A heavy security presence is expected with sectarian tensions running high between Sunni Muslim Hariri loyalists and Shi'ite Muslim supporters of opposition groups Hezbollah and Amal, both allies of Syria.

Hariri wants the anniversary to be "an occasion for the Lebanese to emphasise their adherence to the truth" and call for an international court to try suspects in the killing.

"Not going out is bending to fear, giving in to what they want to do to us," he told LBC television.

Hariri's allies say the opposition is acting on Syrian orders to topple the government and derail the tribunal.

The UN Security Council and the Lebanese government have approved plans for the court.

But Lebanon's pro-Syrian president has not and the parliament speaker, Amal leader Nabih Berri, has refused to call the chamber to vote on the plan.

Berri and other opposition leaders dispute the legitimacy of the government. Hezbollah and Amal say they support the idea of the tribunal but want to discuss its mandate.

They fear that it will be used as a political tool against them.

Addressing Rafik al-Hariri, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah apologised for not attending Wednesday's commemoration.

Writing in Wednesday's As-Safir newspaper, he said "our only sin is that we refused to accuse without evidence or to turn your blood into a weapon for vengeance".

First Published: Feb 14, 2007 12:04 IST