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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

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Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Intelligence arrow Hezbollah Pledges Pullout From Beirut as Army Makes Concession
Hezbollah Pledges Pullout From Beirut as Army Makes Concession PDF Print E-mail
Written by Gareth Gore and Daniel Williams, Bloomberg   
Saturday, 10 May 2008

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May 10 (Bloomberg) -- Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim party that took over sections of western Beirut for four days, said it would pull its forces out because the Lebanese army gave into a key demand to let it preserve its military communications. 

Al-Manar, Hezbollah's television, said today the army had revoked the dismissal of the Beirut airport security chief, who was fired by the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Siniora dismissed him over the discovery of a secret Hezbollah surveillance system at the airport. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had demanded his reinstatement.

``The opposition will pull its fighters back,'' al-Manar said in a brief statement. The party, which the U.S. regards as a terrorist organization, said it would not dismantle its private land-line telephone network. At a press conference, Ali Hassan Khalil, a legislator allied with Hezbollah, also said the militia would leave Beirut streets.

In a speech a few hours earlier, Siniora ordered the army to clear Beirut streets of gunmen loyal to Hezbollah and its allies. ``I call on the army to establish security for everyone in all areas and clear armed elements from the streets.''

The army made no immediate move to comply. Then, shortly after the speech, it issued a statement revoking the airport decision and saying it would look into the phone network.

Militia members from Hezbollah and its allies, armed with machine guns and wearing civilian clothing or fatigues, manned checkpoints on and around Hamra Street, a main commercial thoroughfare.

Power Struggle

Hezbollah, an ally of Iran and Syria, has been locked in a power struggle with Siniora, backed by the U.S. and its Arab allies, for 18 months. Hezbollah, which counts the Shiite group Amal and a Christian party in its bloc, is demanding a veto over government decisions.

Hezbollah's drive in Lebanon coincides with efforts by other U.S. adversaries in the Middle East to gain influence, if not outright power.

In the Palestinian territories, Hamas, an Islamic party that declines to recognize Israel, controls the Gaza Strip to the exclusion of U.S.-backed President Mahmoud Abbas, who rules the West Bank. In Iraq, militias loyal to Moqtada Al-Sadr, an anti-U.S. Shiite cleric, are doing battle both with American troops and Iraqi government forces.

As in the case of Iraq, the U.S. blames Syria and Iran for Lebanon's problems. ``Backed by Syria and Iran, Hezbollah and its allies are killing and injuring innocent citizens and undermining the legitimate authority of the Lebanese government and the institutions of the Lebanese state,'' Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement issued Friday.

Evacuations

Today, gunmen stretched green camouflage netting across parking lots and on construction sites while foreign embassies mounted convoys to evacuate stranded travelers from the city. Hezbollah and allied militiamen escorted the evacuees from hotels.

Two people died when unknown gunmen opened fire on a funeral for a victim of yesterday's violence. At least 27 people have died in fighting, Naharnet news Web site said. Hezbollah charged that three of its members were tortured and executed by Druze supporters of the government.

Hamra and other districts occupied by the Hezbollah-led opposition are largely populated by Sunni Muslims, key backers of Siniora's Sunni, Christian and Druze coalition. Nasrallah demanded that the government permit it to maintain its separate land-line telephone network and the airport surveillance system, both in the name of defending Lebanon against Israel.

`Sway of Violence'

``Lebanon will not fall under the sway of violence and terrorism,'' Siniora said.

Hezbollah attacked west Beirut on May 7 after the government announced the discovery of the Shiite party's surveillance network at Beirut's international airport. Siniora then fired the head of airport security and threatened to dismantle Hezbollah's land-line telephone network.

Hezbollah leader Nasrallah, whose group fought a 33-day war against Israel in 2006, said he had the right to maintain the networks. ``The hand that touches the weapons of the resistance will be cut off,'' Nasrallah said in a televised speech May 8. He called the government's actions at the airport a ``declaration of war.''

To contact the reporters on this story: Gareth Gore in Beirut at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ; Daniel Williams in Rome at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .



 
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