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February 27, 2005

THINGS ARE HEATING UP IN LEBANON:

BEIRUT: Lebanon's Syrian-backed government banned protests planned for Monday (local time) but a main opposition figure vowed the Lebanese would take to the streets to demand who killed former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.

Interior minister Suleiman Franjieh called on security forces in a statement on Sunday "to take all necessary steps to preserve security and order and prevent demonstrations and gatherings on Monday".

Opposition groups have called a protest at the central Martyrs Square by Hariri's grave and a one-day strike to coincide with a parliamentary debate on the killing that for many recalled Lebanon's bitter 1975-90 civil war.

Government and Syrian loyalists, meanwhile, planned to descend on central Beirut to protest against US deputy secretary of state David Satterfield's visit to Lebanon as part of growing international pressure.

Clashes between the two sides were feared.

More here, with a prediction that tomorrow is going to be quite a day.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, this report from Bahrain seems like positive news:

The Arab world must shun extremism which breeds violence, His Majesty King Hamad urged yesterday.

Extremism and violence are alien to the principles of Islam, he said in an address read out at the opening of a regional forum held in Bahrain.

"The region has a civilised and open-minded heritage that is based on the respect of people's rights and aspirations by promoting insight and sound guidance in line with the teachings of the Holy Quran," said the King. . . . He said that Bahrain was hosting the forum at a time when its ceiling of political and intellectual freedom had increased and the channels for dialogue were open for everyone.

More like this, please.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here. Hmm. Maybe those crazy neocons had a plan after all . . . .