Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hezbollah Leaves West Beirut After Beating Government Challenge

From Bloomberg.com, by Daniel Williams, May 11:

Hezbollah...handed sections of Beirut to the Lebanese army after forcing pro-Western Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to abandon efforts to curb its military activities.

Hezbollah and its allied gunmen still remained in side streets in the central Hamra district of downtown Beirut today...

...Siniora placed the implementation of two government decisions in the army's hands: to shut down Hezbollah's electronic surveillance operation at Beirut's international airport and a vast land-line telephone network.

The military...overturned the government's plans. It reinstated the head of airport security fired over the existence of the spy system and left the phone lines under Hezbollah's control.

...Hezbollah forced Siniora to back down over a key issue of contention -- whether the Shiite party ought to be permitted to maintain a separate militia and military structure. Under United Nations Security Council resolution 1559, passed in 2004, all such militias were supposed to be disbanded.

Hezbollah, an ally of Iran and Syria, and Siniora, backed by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab allies, have been locked in a power struggle for 18 months. Hezbollah, which counts the Shiite Amal movement and a Christian party in its bloc, is demanding a veto over government decisions.

...The Hezbollah-led takeover of western Beirut included areas largely populated by Sunni Muslims, key backers of Siniora's Sunni, Christian and Druze coalition. Gunmen torched the offices of Al-Mustaqbal, a newspaper owned by Saad Hariri, a pro- government Sunni leader.

...The army stood by during the takeover....

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