Une énorme manifestation a lieu dans le centre-ville de Beyrouth. La place des martyrs, la place Riad al-Solh, toutes les rues afférentes... Du jamais vu au Liban. A première vue, cette manifestation semble encore plus grande que les précédentes. C'est l'opposition qui manifeste à l'encontre du gouvernement actuel, demandant sa démission et la formation d'un cabinet d'union nationale. Tous les participants portent les drapeaux libanais. Le général Aoun (Courant patriotique Libre) a prononcé un discours réitérant les objectifs de la manifestation et du sit-in ouvert. Des tentes sont montées en face du Sérail dans lequel se trouve le gouvernement actuel.
Samedi 2 décembre 2006: Le sit-in se poursuit au centre-ville de Beyrouth. Des milliers de personnes manifestent. Pour plus de détails, photos, articles, émissions télévisées et entrevues audio:
Tents Swamp Beirut
Online edition staff
Friday, December 01, 2006
After Aoun spoke, organizers began erecting tents on streets leading to the square. Chairs were placed and mattresses were laid on the ground. Blankets, food and water were also distributed for those who intended to spend the night.
"We will stay here until the fall of the Siniora government,” one organizer said.
"We want to make sure that nobody can go in or out of the Grand Serail," he said. "We will stay as long as it takes. We will take turns and we will have shifts in order to keep the protest going."
The opposition includes Hezbollah, parliament speaker Nabih Berri, Michel Aoun and supporters of President Emile Lahoud.
"We came to Beirut to ask for the fall of the government which has monopolized decision-making and done nothing for us," said Aoun follower Tatiana Atieh, 28, from northern Lebanon. "We are in an economic crisis and in a political deadlock." Rafha Hadawan, a 22-year-old Shiite, said she wanted Siniora’s government toppled: "I want the government to fall because during the war (with Israel), Siniora was meeting with (US Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice instead of standing with his people." Journalism student Rihan Berro, 19, from the Hezbollah stronghold of Baalbek in the east, agreed.
Near Siniora's office, trucks with water cannons were on standby as soldiers watched from rooftops.
The demonstrators were kept around 150 meters (500 feet) from the building by the military as unarmed Hezbollah militants in civilian clothes formed a line between the protesters and the troops.
Hezbollah had earlier said it planned to deploy several thousand “discipline men" to monitor the protest and help ensure calm.
Siniora vowed Thursday not to be cowed and said his government “will continue to defend freedom and the democratic regime which are being targeted." "We will not allow any coup against our democratic regime," he added.
The opposition says it no longer recognizes the anti-Damascus cabinet after the pullout of six ministers in mid-November.
Their resignations and the November 21 assassination of Christian anti-Syrian industry minister Pierre Gemayel have aggravated divisions between opposition groups and the parliamentary majority, which was voted into office in 2005.
Hundreds of thousands jam Downtown Beirut
Massive crowd keeps peace on first day of demonstration to force cabinet out
By Rym Ghazal
Daily Star staff
Saturday, December 02, 2006
BEIRUT: Hundreds of thousands of opposition protesters crammed into the heart of Beirut Friday and besieged the headquarters of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government in a peaceful show of force to bring down the ruling Cabinet. "We are here to criticize Siniora, and not the entire Sunni community!" MP Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Hizbullah ally, said from behind bulletproof glass to a vibrant crowd of demonstrators at Riad al-Solh Square in Downtown Beirut.
Siniora has "made many mistakes" and his government has "made corruption a daily affair," Aoun said, calling for the resignation of the premier and his ministers.
"Siniora out," the massive crowd chanted in response to Aoun's verbal assault as they overflowed nearby parking lots and streets after arriving from across the country waving Lebanon's national flag.
Simultaneously, a newly composed song blared over erected loudspeakers, titled "Tears protect no one." The song, set to a hard-hitting upbeat track, compiles extracts from a recent speech by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbullah leader, critical of Siniora's emotional addresses to the nation during the July-August war with Israel.
"I wish that the prime minister and his ministers were among us today, not hiding behind barbed wire and the army's armored personnel carriers," Aoun said. "He who has his people behind him does not need barbed wire."
Demonstrators blocked all access roads around the government headquarters, setting up tents and staging sit-ins to keep Siniora and his ministers holed up inside their offices.
As The Daily Star went to print the siege was being partially dismantled after a telephone call by Siniora to Speaker Nabih Berri, leader of the Amal Movement and a key Hizbullah ally, to "take responsibility" and ensure that access in and out of the Grand Serail was not inhibited.
According to local television LBCI, Siniora made the call to Berri after receiving "information" that demonstrators might try to storm the Serail during the night.
As the sun set, the demonstration continued, albeit in slightly reduced numbers, after MP Ali Hassan Khalil, Berri's representative at the rally, called on protesters to "continue the sit-in, during the night, the day and even dawn."
"We will not budge until we hear that the government had resigned," Khalil said.
Opposition leaders had earlier promised an open-ended sit-in, in reduced numbers than during the daylight hours of the demonstration, until their demands were met.
Seemingly proving fears of violence and mayhem unfounded, the demonstration remained peaceful on Friday, partly due to the presence of force of silver-capped Hizbullah personnel tasked with keeping the peace.
Adhering to instructions from leaders of the opposition to turn the demonstration into "a national unity protest," Hizbullah personnel diligently confiscated party flags and provided their holders with Lebanese ones as replacements, turning the Downtown core into a sea of red, white and green, with few appearances of the yellow and green Hizbullah flag or its orange FPM counterpart.
In addition to Lebanese flags, anti-Siniora chants, some protesters were seen carrying sponges and loofas, which were used as props to accompany the opposition's main slogan for a "clean government."
Other popular slogans included: "100 percent! 100 percent! 100 percent! We are the majority!" and "We withstood and fought for our country, and won't let anyone shut us up!"
"We gave the government many chances, and they always failed us. So it is time for all of them to resign and give this country a fresh start," said Safyeh Abdil Bader, who arrived at the demonstration by bus with the rest of her family from the Southern town of Nabatiyeh.
Two-year-old Ali Issa flashed the victory sign and waved a yellow balloon, as his mother criticized "Mr. America," and demanded Siniora "respect all sects of this country."
Siniora was also referred to as "Mr. VAT," "traitor" and "the crying man" by protesters interviewed by The Daily Star.
Most demonstrators were optimistic about the future, with few convinced of the possibility of civil war.
"Hizbullah just finished a war, and is not about to enter another," said FPM supporter Saad Al-Shammi, who dismissed such concerns as "naive," while others interviewed said that a war was "unlikely."
As the crowds dispersed, several party flags and banners sprouted up amid the demonstrators, while supporters of each party of the opposition alliance made their separate ways home and the streets of Beirut slowly reopened.
Protesters pin hopes for better economy on political change
Merchants seize moment to recoup part of summer losses
By Lysandra Ohrstrom
Daily Star staff
Saturday, December 02, 2006
BEIRUT: Many of the protesters who converged on the capital on Friday called not only for the resignation of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government, but also for improved economic prospects. Whether Muslim or Christian, from Mount Lebanon or a Southern village, wearing orange or veiled, almost every protester who spoke with The Daily Star complained of the deteriorating business environment in Lebanon since the July-August war with Israel.
Joe Khoury, a 26-year old communications engineer, blamed the March 14 movement for a decade of insecurity. Khoury said he would return to protest every day until Siniora's government resigns.
"For 12 years we work for a couple months, and then we don't work for a year, and then they steal our money. This is why we are here," he said.
"I'm looking for a visa to run away from this country because they steal all our money with taxes. In America there are taxes but look at the salaries, and when my father turns 65 the government would help him. Here after two or three years who pays for him?"
Khoury, who wore no signals of his political affiliation and refused to disclose his religion, was not the only attendee motivated by financial considerations.
A merchant from Monnot Street who identified himself as "George" decided on Friday morning to bring his ice-cream cart over to the protests in an effort to recoup some of his summer losses. He said he supports no political party.
"They stopped our business with all of this political bull****, so one of my staff said 'boss, let's sell ice-cream tomorrow because we want to live, we don't have $10 in our pocket,'" he said while preparing a chocolate cone for an orange-faced teenage patron.
"Business has been worse than you can imagine, it must have dropped 80 percent. It was getting better, but then even before [Industry Minister Pierre] Gemayel was killed people stopped going out because the politicians started shouting at each other. The Lebanese have gotten good at reading the signals."
As of 3 p.m. Friday, George had already sold 150 ice-cream cones and said he would return to the demonstration every day because "there is no business anywhere else."
Merchants selling kaak, coffee, cakes and saj also catered to the hungry protesters.
Some of the demonstrators admitted that they could ill-afford weeks without work should the protests continue, but all said they would make do with short-term losses somehow.
Tony Khachoya, a Free Patriotic Movement supporter from Saloumi, said his time is a small price to pay if it brings a change in government.
"For 15 years work has not been going well," said Khachoyan, who works for a boat-maintenance company. "Maybe we have a decent month here or there, but then something happens and we suffer. We will stay here till the government leaves, because a few days lost is nothing compared to what we've been going through."
Walid Ghandour, a 30-year-old baker from Tariq al-Jaddidah, said at least half of his friends have been laid off since September. He said that a change of government would bring a better economy.
"Things are very bad, but the problem is with the state," Ghandour said. "When this government goes there will be plenty of work."
Une commission de l'Onu prône qu'Israël dédommage le Liban
01 Decembre 2006
Benedict's spokesman, Federico Lombardi, was quick to tell journalists afterward that the pope had not actually prayed but was "in meditation."
After explaining the basics of Muslim prayer to the pontiff during the early part of the tour, Cagrici said: "Let us turn toward the Kiblah" - the direction of Mecca, which all Muslims must face when they perform their prayers.
The pope complied.
The two men, clad in long white robes, stood side by side and immobile for about two minutes, their hands crossed on their stomachs in a classical Muslim prayer attitude known as "the posture of tranquility."
The pontiff remained with his eyes closed for about a minute, but did not repeat Cagrici's gesture when the mufti wiped his face with the palms of both hands, signaling the end of the prayer.
"This picture is meant as a message of fraternity - a souvenir of this visit that I will certainly never forget," the pope said, presenting Cagrici with a mosaic representing doves.
Benedict received a work of Ottoman calligraphy that read: "In the name of Allah the merciful" - also in the form of a dove.
"A pleasant twist of fate," commented the mufti.
As he left the mosque after about half an hour, visibly delighted, the pontiff said: "This visit will help us find together the means and paths to peace, for the good of humanity."
The Blue Mosque was officially named after Sultan Ahmet and opened in 1616. But it is widely called the Blue Mosque after its elaborate blue tiles. It stands opposite the Aya Sofya Museum which was once the Christian church Hagia Sophia. The pope visited the mosque after a short tour of Aya Sofya.
Benedict's visit was a late addition to his schedule meant as a gesture of respect for Islam after he angered Muslims with apparently critical comments in a speech in September.
After a deeply symbolic display of unity with Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Christian Orthodox, the pope again repeated his calls for greater freedoms for religious minorities. He described divisions among Christians - including the nearly 1,000-year rift between Catholics and Orthodox - as a "scandal to the world."
In a common declaration after a prayer service, Benedict and Bartholomew rejected the concept of killing in God's name, denounced terrorism and re-committed their respective Churches to the quest for unity and condemned violence in the Holy Land.
Such declarations usually stick to theological issues so it was politically significant that the two specifically mentioned the European Union Turkey is negotiating to join.
"We have viewed positively the process that has led to the formation of the European Union," the statement said.
"In every step toward unification, minorities must be protected, with their cultural traditions and the distinguishing features of their religion," it said, adding that all members had to respect human rights and religious freedom.
The EU wants Turkey to ensure full religious freedom for its non-Muslim minorities. This means giving them legal status including property rights, so they can operate freely as institutions, and allowing them to run their own schools.
There are just 120,000 Christians, about 30,000 of them Catholic, in Turkey today, compared to 2 million a century ago.
The statement also stressed the need to "preserve Christian roots" in European culture while nonetheless remaining "open to other religions and their cultural contributions."