Burning barricades paralyze Lebanon
Jan 23, 2007TV-NZ
Thousands of Lebanese protesters blocked main roads around the country with rubble and burning tires on Tuesday at the start of a general strike called by the opposition to try to topple the Western-backed government.
Demonstrators barricaded the road to Lebanon's only international airport and to the sea port. Security sources said a gunman fired on protesters in the ancient Christian town of Byblos, wounding three people before being arrested by soldiers.
"This government only understands force and today is only a small lesson," protester Jamil Wahb told Reuters in a southern, mostly Shi'ite suburb. "We will stay here until they give in."
Organizers of Syrian-backed Hezbollah, their faces covered in black masks, prowled on motorcycles, walkie-talkies clamped to their mouths.
One Christian leader described the protests as tantamount to a coup attempt.
The strike escalates a campaign by the Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah-led opposition to dislodge the government, install a new unity administration and hold early parliamentary elections.
If you are not getting all of this and have muddled up your play card, the BBC wishes to be helpful and does a pretty reasonable job of sorting it all out here. The Lebanese crisis explained. It begins thusly:
"Lebanon is the most politically complex and religiously divided country in the Middle East, which is what makes it such a potentially explosive factor in an unstable region.
Tiny Lebanon baffles outsiders. Even people in the Middle East find its politics confusing.
Set up by France after World War I as a predominantly Christian state, Lebanon is now about 60% Muslim, 40% Christian.
It has 18 officially recognised religious sects and sharing power between them has always been a complicated game.
Lebanese Muslims have tended to look east for support from the other Arab states and from Iran. The Christians have tended to look west to Europe and the United States."