Lebanon police teargas protesters

2012-10-21 17:43


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Beirut - Lebanese police fired in the air and used teargas on Sunday to repel protesters trying to storm the premier's office amid calls for him to quit after a top security official was killed by a car bomb blamed on Syria.

The funeral of General Wissam al-Hassan had been billed as a protest against Syrian meddling in Lebanon, but quickly turned into equal, if not greater, anger at Prime Minister Najib Mikati and his government.

Just minutes after the nearby ceremony, "young people headed towards the building in the city centre, but security forces blocked them by firing into the air and using teargas," said a policeman.

During funeral orations for the slain police intelligence chief, angry former premier Fuad Siniora called on Mikati to resign, adding his voice to many others since Hassan and two others were killed and 126 wounded on Friday.

Siniora, parliamentary chief for opposition leader and ex-premier Saad Hariri, said the "government is responsible for the crime that killed Wissam and his chauffeur. That is why he must go."

Despite calls for him to step down, Mikati said after an emergency cabinet meeting he had agreed to stay in his post at the request of President Michel Sleiman to avoid a "political vacuum" in volatile Lebanon.

The opposition has widely accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of being behind the attack, as it did in 2005 when Hariri's ex-premier father Rafiq was killed in a huge Beirut blast.

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