Middle East News
Top Sunni accuses Hezbollah of "invading" Beirut (Roundup)
May 7, 2008, 18:27 GMT
Beirut - Lebanon's Sunni Muslim Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Kabbani accused the Iranian-backed Shiite movement late Wendesday Hezbollah of 'invading' Beirut.
'This is clearly an invasion of the city by an armed group,' Kabbani said in a televised statement, referring to the blocking of main roads leading to the capital by Hezbollah to protest the high cost of living.
'We call on the Arab Muslim countries to immeidtaely stop such actions by Hezbollah, because Lebanon is for Muslims and Christians together,' the Grand Mufti said.
'Hezbollah is today trying to impose its hegemony as a political party on Lebanon, by kidnapping the central of the capiatl and today Beirut International airport is being kidnapped,' he said.
Unconfirmed reports indicated earlier that Hezbollah was planning to set up tents near Beirut airport, like they did in downtown Beirut on December 1, 2006 when they blocked the road near the governmental palace. The camp is still in downtown Beirut.
'I call on Hezbollah leaders to pull its militants from the streets of Beirut and follow God's will. Sunni Muslims are fed up with such violations of their freedom and dignity, as well as all Lebanese,' he said.
The Grand Mufti ended his statement by saying: 'Let God be the witness that I have delivered the message.'
Hezbollah followers started from the early hours Wednesday to close roads by sand barricades especially the road leading to Beirut international airport.
The opposition followers also stormed two offices for the Sunni Muslim Future current movement, headed by majority leader Saad Hariri, in Ras al Nabaa.
Owing to the intensified situation, the union later in the day cancelled their demonstartion to avoid more tension on the streets which wounded at least five people.
The strike was called by the union to force the government to raise the monthly minimum wage which has been unchanged since 1996.
Although the cabinet on Tuesday agreed to a 130-dollar increase a month to 330 dollars, the General Confederation of Labour Unions said it was insufficient.
The federation is demanding that the minimum wage be increased to 600 dollars but the government has balked at such a rise, and Finance Minister Jihad Azour has said it could lead to rampant inflation.
The scenes were reminiscent of an anti-government protest on January 23, 2007 that led to some of Lebanon's worst domestic strife since the country's 1975-90 civil war.
Lebanon has been gripped by a deep political crisis, and Hezbollah has been leading a campaign against Prime Minister Fouad Seniora's government since November 2006.
The standoff has left Lebanon without a president for five months.
The tension between the government and Hezbollah escalated sharply Tuesday after the cabinet accused the group of violating Lebanon's sovereignty by operating its own communications network and installing spy cameras at the airport.
The government, supported by the United States and a number of Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, also removed the head of Beirut airport security in another challenge to Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Syria.
The Shiite group however said the communications network was part of a security apparatus in its ongoing fight against Israel.