700,000 march in Beirut; Hezbollah leader lambasts Bush and Rice

Thursday, February 9, 2006

A massive demonstration march on Thursday of over half a million Shiite Muslims in Beirut, Lebanon heard Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, tell the U.S. President George W. Bush and his Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, to "shut up" after they reportedly accused Iran and Syria of fueling protest demonstrations over the Muhammad cartoons.

"Defending the prophet should continue all over the world. Let Condoleezza Rice and Bush and all the tyrants shut up. We are an Islamic nation that cannot tolerate, be silent or be lax when they insult our prophet and sanctities. We will uphold the messenger of God not only by our voices but also by our blood," Nasrallah told the crowd, estimated to be 700,000 (police said the figure was likely to be even higher).

The Hezbollah leader also told the crowd that protests must continue until laws are passed in Europe banning insults to Muhammad.

NATO defence ministers are in Brussels meeting to discuss the controversy's security implications. The upheavals of protest in Afghanistan are blamed for the deaths of 10 people in that country this week. Muslim protests have spread across the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Speaking Wednesday at a joint news conference in Washington with the new Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, the U.S. Secretary Rice said, "Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and to use this to their own purposes and the world ought to call them on it."

Her comments were preceded earlier that day President Bush who also called for an end to the violence: "I call upon the governments around the world to stop the violence. To be respectful. To protect property. To protect the lives of innocent diplomats who are serving their countries overseas."