Lebanese Catholics and Muslims honor slain Hariri, rally against Syria

.- Around 300,000 Lebanese gathered in Beirut’s Martyrs Square yesterday to honor Rafik al-Hariri, the former premier who was killed two years ago on Feb. 14. The crowd, made up of Muslims and Maronite Catholics called for justice regarding Hariri’s assassination and showed their support for the current anti-Syrian government.

The crowd also marked the UN Security Council’s approval of plans to establish a court to try Hariri's killers, despite objections from the Hezbollah-led opposition and from Lebanon's pro-Syrian president. Parliament's approval is required.

Hariri’s death in 2005 triggered international pressure, which forced Syria to withdraw its troops after 29 years in Lebanon.

Hariri, a Sunni Muslim billionaire tycoon with close ties to Saudi Arabia and France, masterminded Lebanon's reconstruction after its 1975-90 civil war. He had a falling out with Syria, then the dominant power in Lebanon, in the months before his death.

In fiery speeches, pro-government leaders denounced Syria, which they blame for the suicide bombing that killed Hariri and for later attacks on anti-Syrian figures.

The demonstration yesterday in Martyrs Square, where Hariri is buried, went ahead despite twin bus bombings in a Christian sector, on Tuesday. The ruling coalition accused Syria of organizing the blasts, which killed three people and wounded 20 others

According to Reuters, Christian Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea pledged that Lebanon would resist Syrian influence and would pursue the Hariri’s assassins “across the world and to the end of time."

Many of the demonstrators wore red caps commemorating Hariri, reading: "We really miss you."

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora declared Feb. 14 a national holiday and day of mourning. Shops, schools and businesses were closed.


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