Skip to comments.Hariri Funeral Turns Into Anti-Syria Rally
Posted on 02/16/2005 12:17:40 PM PST by NYer
BEIRUT, Lebanon - In an unprecedented outpouring of grief and anger, mourners shouted "Syria Out!" as they crowded Beirut's streets Wednesday to bury their former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. Lebanon's pro-Syrian president stayed away, warned not to come by Hariri supporters who blame Damascus for his death.
In Syria, government officials were silent as American and U.N. pressure continued to mount.
The assassination "angered the international community, and this requires that we shed the light on this heinous, indescribable act," said French President Jacques Chirac, a friend of Hariri's who flew in to offer condolences.
The U.S. representative at the funeral, Assistant Secretary of State William Burns, called again on Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon a further spike in U.S.-Syrian tensions a day after the U.S. recalled its ambassador from Damascus.
"Mr. Hariri's death should give in fact it must give renewed impetus to achieving a free, independent and sovereign Lebanon," Burns said after a meeting with Lebanon's foreign minister.
"And what that means is the complete and immediate withdrawal by Syria of all of its forces in Lebanon," Burns said.
Along the funeral route, mourners draped Lebanese flags from balconies and held up pictures of the former prime minister, who was assassinated Monday by a massive bomb that also killed 16 others.
A huge crowd first gathered outside Hariri's house, then marched for two hours behind the ambulance carrying his coffin to the towering Mohammed al-Amin Mosque in central Beirut, which the slain billionaire had built and where he was buried.
An estimated 200,000 people gathered around the mosque for the noon funeral prayers, hanging from scaffolding and street lights to catch a glimpse of the coffin, draped in Lebanon's red, white and green flag.
On Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council demanded Lebanon bring the culprits to justice.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, whose country refused France's initial call for an international investigation, urged Lebanese authorities to hold "a quick inquiry to find the culprits and punish them."
"Otherwise the situation in the Arab world and Lebanon will go in a bad direction," Al-Faisal warned.
Screaming, weeping mourners turned out to pay tribute to Hariri, who many credit with rebuilding Lebanon after its devastating 1975-90 civil war.
But the funeral was also seen as a protest against Syria, which has long been this country's main power broker and which still maintains 15,000 troops and an extensive intelligence network here.
As the mourners marched through Beirut, young men shouted insults at Syrian President Bashar Assad, calling on him to "remove your dogs from Beirut" a reference to Syrian intelligence agents.
Lebanon's pro-Syrian president, Emile Lahoud, stayed away from the funeral after being warned not to come by Hariri supporters, who blame his government and Damascus for his assassination.
Syrian TV broadcast Lebanese television footage of the funeral, but authorities in Damascus were quiet.
Hariri, 60, was Lebanon's prime minister for 10 of the 14 years after the country's civil war. He resigned last year amid opposition to a Syrian-backed constitutional amendment that enabled his rival, Lahoud, to extend his term in office.
Syrian Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam, a close Hariri friend, attended the mosque service, but made no comments.
However, Syria's ambassador to Washington, Imad Moustapha, said people insinuating Syria had a role in the attack were "lacking logic" and intent on damaging Syria.
Lebanon's interior minister has suggested a suicide bomber aided by "international parties" may have been behind the bomb attack on Hariri's motorcade, but no credible claims of responsibility have emerged.
A huge security operation kept order at the funeral, which drew the largest crowd ever seen in Lebanon, aside from a Mass in Beirut by Pope John Paul (news - web sites) II in 1997 that attracted almost 1 million people.
In a sign of Hariri's ability to reach across Lebanon's often-volatile divisions, Sunni Muslim clerics, Druse leaders in white turbans and ordinary Lebanese Shiites and Christians all marched in the funeral. Hariri was a Sunni Arab.
Breaking with Islamic tradition, hundreds of weeping women waving white handkerchiefs joined the men in the march.
Church bells rang loudly as the procession neared the mosque, mixing with the chanting mourners, the drumbeat from a military band and the loud calls of Islamic prayers.
Grieving relatives, including his three sons, carried Hariri's coffin from an ambulance and through the crowd. Many scrambled to touch the casket, while thousands chanted "there is no God but Allah."
Hariri's eldest son, Baha, climbed on top of several people's shoulders at one point to plead into a microphone for calm as the coffin arrived at the mosque.
"We don't want his last minutes to be like this step back away from his body," the son shouted.
Soon after, aides supported him on either side as he walked to an ambulance, suffering from exhaustion, and was taken home.
Today, thousands of Lebanese and foreigners paid their last respects before Hariris coffin. Delegations from Arab countries, from Europe and from around the world were present at the burial ceremony that took place before noon as Islamic tradition demands.
The countrys Christian communities were represented by their top leaders who called Hariris death a great loss not only for the Muslim community but also for the whole of Lebanon.
Maronite Bishops were called by Patriarch Sfeir to a special synod in Bkerke. In their statementMessage of brotherhood and coexistencethe Bishop called for the respect of the right of citizens to complete liberty and expressed their sorrow for the flare-up of violence in a country considered by all a mirror of freedom.
The Bishops were saddened by the terrible death of a man like Rafik Hariri. They remembered his action in favour of students and the sick. More than 30,000 students benefited from his financial aid.
Only where a totalitarian regime rules such crimes can happen, the Bishops said. Such an action is intended to silence those who insist that Lebanon recover its freedom and sovereignty and demand an end to the foreign tutelage which violates Lebanons historical mission.
The Bishops concluded their statement by urging prudence, caution and respect for the values that the murdered leader defended.
Today, the whole of Lebanon mourned the passing of Rafik Hariri. The government was silent though.
Government leaders were noticeable for their almost total absence as requested by Mr Hariris family which refused a state funeral.
Lebanons President Émile Lahoud is convening a meetingan impromptu national conferencewith leaders from every political movement and religious community, to examine the situation in the wake of Mr Hariris death. (JH)
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Arafat claimed "international forces" were behind the bombings in 2002. Perhaps here a code word for Hezbollah?
Hmmmm, I would say that Syria should be withdrawing it's troops and intelligence operatives any day now. Assad has a choice to make.
Syria has been playing the game in Iraq, of trying to destabilize the country, now it's time to pay them back.
"...but authorities in Damascus were quiet."
Unless they're politically inept (a possibility) Syria's quietude seems to be a message they were behind the assassination. It's they're turf and they're not bothering to front some "we'll get to the bottom of this" P.R.
hilarious, since hariri was pro-syria when he ran lebanon.
2. Hezbollah "Party of God."
"Hezbollah, also spelled Hizballah, means "party of God." It is a Shiite Muslim organization headquartered in Lebanon whose goal is a fundamentalist Islamic state there and beyond and the obliteration of Israel."
"It trains Hamas militants and is seeking to further arm Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. For those Palestinians without guns, Hezbollah encourages them to stab Israelis to death. The group is believed responsible for the 1983 suicide bombing of an American Marine barracks in Lebanon that killed 241 American military personnel, as well as the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992. Hezbollah has extremely close ties with Iran, from which it gets everything from diplomatic aid to weapons to an estimated $100 million a year; Syria is a substantial supporter as well. Hezbollah also runs social service organizations and has its own satellite television station, which broadcasts training of suicide bombers."
"While Iran undoubtedly remains the group's supreme ideological mentor and an important source of funding, it is evident that Syria has increasingly established control over virtually every aspect of Hezbollah activities in Lebanon, ranging from its choice of political allies in the electoral process to the timing of its periodic attacks against Israeli forces."
Let's hope something good can from this terrible act....and judging what I have seen so far, I'd say terrorists should beware.
Looking over the previous article and this one I didn't notice anyone asking or talking about what the former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's death might do to the newest round of peace talks between Israel and Palestinian leader Abbas. Will Abbas have to chose sides?
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