Hezbollah Said Simulating Beirut Coup as Saudi Drops Lebanon Mediation Efforts

Unarmed, black-clad members of Iran-backed militant group fan out across Lebanon's capital carrying hand-held radios, Lebanese media reports.

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Hezbollah militants spread across the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Tuesday in a reportedly simulated coup of the capital, in the wake of the political unrest that has engulfed the country since the guerilla movement exited the Lebanese coalition and caused the government to collapse.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has abandoned its own mediation efforts in Lebanon, saying the situation was "dangerous," Al Arabiya television said on Wednesday, citing Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.

Lebanese soldiers patrol downtown in Beirut on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011. Credit: AP

Unarmed militants from the Iran- and Syria-backed militant organization took to the streets across various central sites across the capital, according to Lebanese media. The organization gave no advance notice of the simulation, the reports said.

Hezbollah supporters wearing black and clutching hand-held radios quietly gathered around Beirut, according to reports, an innocuous yet threatening display by the country's most powerful armed force.

Many parents picked up their children from school as word spread of the gatherings, which were seen then as a response to the indictments released by an international tribunal over the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.The militants dispersed after a few hours.

Lebanon is facing its most severe political crisis in years, after Hezbollah ministers and their cabinet allies resigned from Prime Minister Saad Hariri's government over disagreements about a United Nations-backed tribunal investigating the murder of his father.

The tribunal indicted several Hezbollah members of involvement in the senior Hariri's assassination. Like other international courts, the tribunal has no police force and has to rely on national authorities to carry out arrests. Hezbollah has vowed it would never hand anyone over.

Hezbollah's dramatic withdrawal from the cabinet earlier prompted many to fear a recurrence of factional violence so common in the war-torn country.

Lengthy negotiations lie ahead between Lebanon's factions as they attempt to build a new government. On Tuesday, Turkey's foreign minister was in Beirut in a coordinated visit with Qatar's prime minister to discuss the political crisis in Lebanon.



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