Protests over pro-Iranian power grab in Lebanon

A candidate backed by the Hezbollah movement was asked to form a new Lebanese government yesterday, prompting a wave of street protests against the growing influence of the Iranian-backed group.

President Michel Sleiman appointed the billionaire tycoon Najib Mikati as Prime Minister-designate after he secured enough parliamentary votes to defeat the Western-backed Saad Hariri, who was prime minister until Hezbollah brought down his unity government two weeks ago.

Mr Mikati's appointment was widely viewed as a victory for the Shia Hezbollah movement, which has emerged as the most potent political and military force in the country from its roots as a narrow resistance group fighting Israel. But it threatened to plunge Lebanon into renewed sectarian violence amid Sunni Muslim fears that Hezbollah wants to turn Lebanon into a Shia Islamic state.

Mr Mikati immediately sought to portray himself as a moderate and unifying politician. "My hand is extended to all Lebanese, Muslims and Christians, in order to build and not to destroy," he said. "This does not signal the victory of one camp over another."

But supporters of Mr Hariri took to the streets in a "day of rage" yesterday, with protests turning violent in the town of Tripoli. Sunni rioters burned tyres and erected barricades, chanting: "Sunni blood is boiling!"

"It is a day of anger against the interference of Iran and Syria," Mohammed Kabbar, a Tripoli lawmaker, told protesters. "Don't test our anger."

The protests were a vivid reminder of sectarian clashes that broke out in Beirut two years ago, costing dozens of lives. But Mr Hariri urged his supporters to display calm. "My call for you is a national call. You are angry but you are responsible people," he said.

Hassan Nasrallah, head of Hezbollah, joined calls for calm yesterday by downplaying the movement's influence. "Hezbollah will not lead the next government," he said. "Najib Mikati is not a Hezbollah man."

Mr Mikati's appointment is likely to worry Western governments, who will nevertheless view Mr Mikati as a Hezbollah choice.

Washington, which backed Mr Hariri, said a Hezbollah-controlled government would be problematic, while Israel, which fought a war with Hezbollah four years ago, said that it was closely monitoring developments.

Hezbollah brought down Mr Hariri's government this month after the premier refused to end co-operation with a UN-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of his father, the statesman Rafiq Hariri. The tribunal is expected to indict Hezbollah members.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Telesales Executive - OTE £30,000

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This precious metal refining co...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Conveyancing Fee Earner

£20000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Conveyancing Fee Earne...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - £40,000 - £70,000 OTE

£40000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Case Handler - Probate

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn