Beirut braced for street violence

Friday 21 January 2011 01:00 GMT

Lebanese special police forces tightened security around the government palace and other official buildings yesterday amid growing fears that the country's political crisis could descend into street battles.

Tensions are mounting over a UN-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of the former prime minister Rafik Hariri. He was killed along with 22 others in a massive truck bombing on Beirut's waterfront. Many fear that the Shia militant group Hezbollah – widely expected to be named in the indictments – will react violently if accused. The UN court filed a sealed draft indictment on Monday, touching off a process many fear could provoke new bloodshed nearly six years after the assassination.

The new measures follow the departure from Beirut of Qatari and Turkish mediators after two days of talks that apparently failed to resolve the differences between Lebanon's main rival factions and bring them back together in a coalition government.

Hezbollah denies any role in Mr Hariri's killing and forced the collapse of the government last week when Prime Minister Saad Hariri – the son of the slain leader – refused to renounce the tribunal and pull Lebanon's funding for the court.

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