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January 29, 2008
Fallout from Lebanese Riots Could Hit Presidential Candidate
It may have been Hezb'allah's game all along. The "peaceful protest" on Sunday in Hezb'allah's stronghold in southern Beirut - where some reports have the protestors opening fire at the army - and which then developed into a full scale riot killing up to 8 people, may have been a means to discredit consensus presidential candidate General Michel Suleiman who is head of the Army.
The Shiite High Council has condemned the army's response to the riot, calling it "unbearable:"
The Higher Shiite Islamic Council on Tuesday denounced the Chiyah "crime" committed Sunday against demonstrators who were staging "legal and peaceful" protests. In short, the Shiites are putting Suleiman on notice that no matter what the investigation finds it will almost certainly be unaccetable to Hezb'allah.
The council, in a statement issued after an extraordinary session under deputy chairman Abdul Amir Qabalan, said "what has been committed against some of our children is unbearable." The statement noted that "peaceful and legal activities … should not be confronted with live bullets, violence and killing."
"Brutality of the sinful aggression and … crime committed against the southern suburb was beyond imagination," the statement added.
It warned that the "the political future hinges on the level of serious and responsible handling of the crime and the culprits."
With little or no chance that Suleiman would ever become acceptable to the opposition, it may be that the search for a new president is back at square one. Or it could precipitate the majority supporting the government going ahead with its threat to seat parliament on their own and elect Suleiman anyway.
Either option only fuels the feelings of hopelessness that have begun to grip the Lebanese population.