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Supporters of the March 14 movement carrying a wounded woman during protests outside the government palace in Beirut after the funeral of top intelligence chief General Wissam Al Hassan, in downtown Beirut, yesterday.
BEIRUT: Lebanese police fired in the air and used tear gas yesterday to repel protesters trying to storm the premier’s office, amid calls for him to quit after a top security official was killed by a car bomb blamed on Syria.
The funeral of General Wissam Al Hassan had been billed as a protest against Syrian meddling in Lebanon, but quickly turned into anger at Prime Minister Najib Mikati, whose government is dominated by pro-Syria parties.
Tension was also rife elsewhere, especially in the northern city of Tripoli, Mikati’s hometown, where clashes between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime wounded eight people, a security official said.
Just minutes after Hassan’s funeral ceremony in Beirut, “young people headed towards the building in the city centre, but security forces blocked them by firing into the air and using tear gas,” a policeman said. The group was estimated at a couple of hundred people.
During funeral orations for the slain police intelligence chief, angry former premier Fuad Siniora called on Mikati to resign.
Siniora, parliamentary chief for opposition leader and ex-premier Saad Hariri, said the “government is responsible for the crime that killed Wissam and his chauffeur. That is why he must go.”
“Mikati, you cannot stay in your post to cover up this crime,” he said. “If you stay, it means you agree with what happened and what will happen.”
Despite calls for him to step down, Mikati said after an emergency cabinet meeting he had agreed to stay in his post at the request of President Michel Sleiman to avoid a “political vacuum” in volatile Lebanon.
The opposition has widely blamed Syrian President Bashar Al Assad for the attack.
In a show of defiance against Assad, a banner proclaimed “Two states, one revolution,” an allusion to the 19-month rebellion in Syria that has cost more than 34,000 lives. “Bashar out of the Serail,” proclaimed another, referring to the seat of government.
After a solemn military farewell at Internal Security Forces (ISF) headquarters, the body of General Hassan, 47, was transported to Martyrs Square along with that of his chauffeur. After the funeral at Al Amine Mosque, Hassan was buried in the mausoleum of his mentor, former premier Rafiq Hariri.