BEIRUT, Lebanon - Shiite Muslims on Tuesday buried a man killed in street
clashes in a Sunni Muslim neighborhood as Lebanon's army commander warned the
military may not be able to contain further protests linked to the country's
tense political standoff.
Army commander Gen. Michel
Suleiman urged politicians to compromise, according to comments quoted by
several Beirut newspapers.
Lebanese supporters of Hezbollah and their allies light
candles on a barbed wire near the Government House, after the funeral of
Ahmed Ali Mahmoud who was killed Sunday during clashes which erupted
between groups of Shiites and Sunnis, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday
Dec. 5, 2006. [AP]
After another night of unrest in the capital, Prime Minister Fuad Saniora
warned the situation could get out of control.
"No one can impose control on the streets and this has been proven," he told
hundreds of supporters who converged throughout the day on his office complex,
which was ringed by barbed wire, combat troops and riot police.
Outside, thousands of opposition protesters were gathered near Saniora's
offices and in several other downtown squares in yet another evening of rallies
aimed at bringing down the government. Many have been camped out near the prime
minister's headquarters since Friday.
In a new tactic Tuesday night, they aimed two powerful floodlights at the
government complex. Troops installed more barbed wire and other fortifications.
Lebanon's political confrontation breaks down on dangerous sectarian lines.
The US-backed government is supported largely by Sunnis, while the
opposition - led by the pro-Syrian Hezbollah - enjoys wide support
among Shiites. Lebanon's Christians are split between the two camps. Hezbollah
is demanding the formation of a new government giving it and its allies a larger
share of power.
The standoff shows no sign of waning despite calls from the two sides for
dialogue to resolve their differences. The Arab League secretary general has
visited to try to help, as did Jordan's foreign minister. Egypt's Beirut envoy
also has been making the rounds.
After several days of trading accusations in the media, rival Lebanese
leaders opened direct channels. A Sunni scholar in the opposition went to the
government headquarters to discuss ideas on resolving the crisis and the
government gave him its own proposals, including the possible expansion of the
current Cabinet to satisfy opposition demands, youth and sports minister Ahmed
Fatfat told reporters.
Shiite leaders tried to put the lid on the boiling sectarian tension and
prevent revenge attacks after the killing of 21-year-old Shiite protester Ahmed
Mahmoud, who was shot while walking Sunday with other protesters through the
Sunni neighborhood of Qasqas. Twenty one people were wounded in the violence.
In a Shiite district not far from the shooting scene, Mahmoud's comrades from
the Shiite Amal party and relatives took turns carrying his coffin. About 2,000
people, many holding Lebanese and green Amal flags, marched behind. A band
played martial music. Some of the Shiites beat their heads with their hands in a
traditional sign of mourning.
The funeral march made its way to the Rawdat al-Shahidein cemetery, where
Sheik Abdul-Amir Kabalan, a senior Shiite cleric, led the prayer over the coffin
amid wails of relatives and calls of "God is great."
"It is (religiously) prohibited for a Shiite to kill a Sunni, a Sunni to kill
a Shiite, a Druse to kill a Shiite, a Shiite to kill a Druse and a Christian to
kill a Muslim," said Kabalan, deputy leader of the Supreme Shiite Council, the
religious governing body of the 1.2 million Shiites, Lebanon's largest sect. "It
is prohibited to fight each other, to provoke and curse each other."