Hezbollah-led protestors stage Beirut sit-in

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Map of Lebanon

Demonstrations calling for Lebanon Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and his cabinet to resign lasted through Friday night and into Saturday.

The protest, mobilized by Hezbollah and other opposition groups, has brought hundreds of thousands of demonstrators into the Beirut's Martyrs' Square and streets close to the government's headquarters. The demonstrators are imposing a blockade on the offices.

"I wish that our prime minister and his ministers were here among us today rather than hiding behind army tanks and barbed wire," Michel Aoun, an influential Christian leader and Hezbollah ally, told the protesters. "The one who has support of his people does not need barbed wire." He added: "I call on the prime minister and his ministers to resign."

The crowd cheered in response: "Saniora out! We want a free government!"

The organizers and demonstrators say they will not leave until the government resigns.

For its part, the government is signaling it has no intention of resigning, and the Mr. Siniora and several ministers are currently staying in the offices during the blockade.

Government supporters and opponents of Hezbollah vowed to wait out the demonstrations,with some accusing the demonstrators of attempting a coup.

While the situation appears stable at this point, there is fear the protests could escalate into sectarian violence or attacks on the government buildings.