Hezbollah protests as Syrian troops withdraw

JUST days after Syrian troops began to move away from the Lebanese capital, Beirut, the pro-Syrian Hezbollah group protested against the move in Riad Solh Square. Last Tuesday’s demonstration comes on the back of a series of marches by opposition supporters in Martyrs' Square demanding the withdrawal of Syria’s security apparatus.

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By  Rhys Jones Published  March 13, 2005

JUST days after Syrian troops began to move away from the Lebanese capital, Beirut, the pro-Syrian Hezbollah group protested against the move in Riad Solh Square. Last Tuesday’s demonstration comes on the back of a series of marches by opposition supporters in Martyrs' Square demanding the withdrawal of Syria’s security apparatus. Hezbollah — a group which not only comprises a large segment of the population, but also has broad support from all Lebanese parties across the political spectrum — claims that Lebanon should be grateful to Syria. The group patrolled the capital’s streets in vehicles equipped with loud speakers and called on citizens to participate in the demonstrations to express “opposition to foreign interference in Lebanese affairs, solidarity for the preservation of national unity and civil peace, objection to United Nations Resolution 1559, denunciation of the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri and appreciation for Syria’s sacrifices in Lebanon.” Abdullah Bitar, president of the Nabatieh Merchants’ Association last week urged the commercial, industrial, agricultural and tourism sectors across the country to participate in the demonstration. He praised Syria’s aid to Lebanon, stressing that ties between both countries will remain intact despite the withdrawal of the Syrian Army. “No one can isolate Lebanon from Syria’s inland that constitutes for our economy a gate to Arab countries,” said Bitar. “Where were the opposition’s leading members when Israel invaded Beirut? Did they blink an eye to change this shameful and bitter reality?” The association also confirmed its attachment to the protection of the resistance, its respect of the Taif Accord and the group’s opposition to the settlement of Palestinians in Lebanon, as well as its loyalty to Syria. As Syrian military trucks headed east towards Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley and the Syrian border some 70,000 demonstrators cheered in downtown Beirut. However, the White House called the move a “half-measure” and said all Syrian troops and intelligence officers should leave Lebanon immediately.

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