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Franjieh Says Patriarch Got Aroused

DECEMBER 1, 2006 (Naharnet)

 Syrian-backed Christian politician Suleiman Franjieh made a vague remark Friday targeting the head of

 the Maronite Church Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir.

 Talking to Al Manar TV station, mouthpiece of the Shiite Hizbullah, Franjieh said Sfeir was "aroused,

 probably at the sight of women," at his seat in Bkirki Thursday and made a statement opposing street

 protests, noting that they have failed to settle disputes in Lebanon.


 The Patriarch made his remark on the eve of an open ended sit-in organized by the Hizbullah-led

 opposition, that includes Franjieh's Marada group, to topple Premier Fouad Saniora's government.


 Franjieh later released a clarification to his remark saying he used colloquial language in which the Arabic

 word "tahayyaj" could mean aroused, excited and carried away.


 Franjieh insisted that what he meant was the Patriarch got "excited."

Hundreds of thousands jam Downtown Beirut

Massive crowd keeps peace on first day of demonstration to force cabinet out

By Rym Ghazal

Daily Star staff

Saturday, December 02, 2006

 BEIRUT: Hundreds of thousands of opposition protesters crammed into the heart of Beirut Friday and

 besieged the headquarters of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government in a peaceful show of force to

 bring down the ruling Cabinet. "We are here to criticize Siniora, and not the entire Sunni community!" MP

 Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Hizbullah ally, said from behind

 bulletproof glass to a vibrant crowd of demonstrators at Riad al-Solh Square in Downtown Beirut.

 Siniora has "made many mistakes" and his government has "made corruption a daily affair," Aoun said,

 calling for the resignation of the premier and his ministers.

 "Siniora out," the massive crowd chanted in response to Aoun's verbal assault as they overflowed nearby

 parking lots and streets after arriving from across the country waving Lebanon's national flag.

 Simultaneously, a newly composed song blared over erected loudspeakers, titled "Tears protect no one."

 The song, set to a hard-hitting upbeat track, compiles extracts from a recent speech by Sayyed Hassan

 Nasrallah, the Hizbullah leader, critical of Siniora's emotional addresses to the nation during the July

 -August war with Israel.

 "I wish that the prime minister and his ministers were among us today, not hiding behind barbed wir

 and the army's armored personnel carriers," Aoun said. "He who has his people behind him does not

 need barbed wire."

 Demonstrators blocked all access roads around the government headquarters, setting up tents and

 staging sit-ins to keep Siniora and his ministers holed up inside their offices.

 As The Daily Star went to print the siege was being partially dismantled after a telephone call by Siniora

 to Speaker Nabih Berri, leader of the Amal Movement and a key Hizbullah ally, to "take responsibility"

 and ensure that access in and out of the Grand Serail was not inhibited.

 According to local television LBCI, Siniora made the call to Berri after receiving "information" that

 demonstrators might try to storm the Serail during the night.

 As the sun set, the demonstration continued, albeit in slightly reduced numbers, after MP Ali Hassan

 Khalil, Berri's representative at the rally, called on protesters to "continue the sit-in, during the night, the

 day and even dawn."

 "We will not budge until we hear that the government had resigned," Khalil said.

 Opposition leaders had earlier promised an open-ended sit-in, in reduced numbers than during the

 daylight hours of the demonstration, until their demands were met.

 Seemingly proving fears of violence and mayhem unfounded, the demonstration remained peaceful on

 Friday, partly due to the presence of force of silver-capped Hizbullah personnel tasked with keeping the


 Adhering to instructions from leaders of the opposition to turn the demonstration into "a national unity

 protest," Hizbullah personnel diligently confiscated party flags and provided their holders with Lebanese

 ones as replacements, turning the Downtown core into a sea of red, white and green, with few

 appearances of the yellow and green Hizbullah flag or its orange FPM counterpart.

 In addition to Lebanese flags, anti-Siniora chants, some protesters were seen carrying sponges and

 loofas, which were used as props to accompany the opposition's main slogan for a "clean government."

 Other popular slogans included: "100 percent! 100 percent! 100 percent! We are the majority!" and "We

 withstood and fought for our country, and won't let anyone shut us up!"

 "We gave the government many chances, and they always failed us. So it is time for all of them to resign

 and give this country a fresh start," said Safyeh Abdil Bader, who arrived at the demonstration by bus

 with the rest of her family from the Southern town of Nabatiyeh.

 Two-year-old Ali Issa flashed the victory sign and waved a yellow balloon, as his mother criticized "Mr.

 America," and demanded Siniora "respect all sects of this country."

 Siniora was also referred to as "Mr. VAT," "traitor" and "the crying man" by protesters interviewed by The

 Daily Star.

 Most demonstrators were optimistic about the future, with few convinced of the possibility of civil war.

 "Hizbullah just finished a war, and is not about to enter another," said FPM supporter Saad Al-Shammi,

 who dismissed such concerns as "naive," while others interviewed said that a war was "unlikely."

 As the crowds dispersed, several party flags and banners sprouted up amid the demonstrators, while

 supporters of each party of the opposition alliance made their separate ways home and the streets of

 Beirut slowly reopened.