Hariri loyalists take to the streets of Lebanon for 'day of wrath' over Hezbollah power play
Hezbollah, which brought down Hariri's government over probe into assassination of his father, have won support for millionaire businessman Najib Mikati to replace him.
Hundreds of supporters of Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri waved flags and burned tires across the country on Tuesday, calling for a "day of wrath" after militant Shi'ite group Hezbollah won enough support for its pick to replace him as premier.
Hezbollah and its allies toppled the government of the Western-backed Hariri two weeks ago, after he refused to reject an international tribunal into the 2005 assassination of his father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri. The United Nations-backed tribunal is widely expected to name members of Hezbollah in upcoming indictments, which many fear could reignite hostilities between Lebanon's rival Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims.
"Sunni blood is boiling", chanted some protesters in the north of the country, burning pictures of prime ministerial nominee Najib Mikati and waving blue flags of Hariri's Future Movement. The movement has said it will not serve in any government dominated by the militant Shi'ite group.
In Beirut, the main road connecting the city with the airport was closed to traffic due to the protests and some reported that guns could be heard being fired in the area. The Arabic language Al Arabiya TV network reported clashes between police and protesters in the central part of the city.
Lebanon's power-sharing political system mandates that the post of prime minister be held by a Sunni, and Hariri supporters said any figure who accepted the nomination from Hezbollah to form a new government would be considered a traitor.
Mikati urged citizens to remain calm on Tuesday and said he wanted to represent all of Lebanon.
"This is a democratic process," he told reporters. "I want to rescue my country."
Protesters in Tripoli set fire to a truck used by the television station Al Jazeera. Journalists from the channel and other reporters said they were taking refuge in a nearby building.
"If the army does not hurry up and help us, we will be in danger," Al Jazeera reporter Majed Abdel-Hadi said in a live call broadcast by the channel.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman started a second day of consultations on Tuesday with parliamentarians to name a prime minister to lead the new government.
Mikati has already secured the crucial backing of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, swinging the balance of power in his favor.
The political deadlock has deepened sectarian divisions in Lebanon, and Hariri supporters protested in several cities on Monday, burning tires and blocking streets.
Politicians allied with Hezbollah have said the first priority of any potential government they form will be to cut links with the tribunal. Hezbollah denies any role in the former prime minister's death.
The demonstrators in Tripoli called for Mikati, a telecoms tycoon from the northern port city, to withdraw his nomination and said the investigation into Rafik Hariri's killing could not be blocked.
"Tripoli will not accept the overthrow of the international tribunal," one poster read.