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Calls for Anti-Syria Protest During Funeral of Lebanon Official

Lebanon's opposition calls for a massive anti-Syria mobilization for funeral of intelligence chief.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 10/21/2012, 6:15 AM

Supporters of the March 14th anti-Syrian opposition coalition
Supporters of the March 14th anti-Syrian opposition coalition
AFP/Anwar Amro

Lebanon's opposition on Saturday called for a massive anti-Syria mobilization for Sunday's funeral of a top police intelligence chief killed in a car bombing blamed on the Damascus regime, AFP reported.

General Wissam al-Hassan of the Internal Security Forces (ISF), a prominent figure opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, died in a car bombing on Friday, sparking a crisis that included calls for the government to quit.

But Prime Minister Najib Mikati, under intense political flak over the killing, said on Saturday he would stay on after the president said it would be in the national interest.

Mikati spoke after an emergency cabinet meeting discussed the Beirut bombing that killed at least eight people, according to a government source, and has been blamed on Assad.

Mikati linked the murder to last month's discovery by security forces of attacks allegedly being planned by Michel Samaha, a pro-Damascus former minister, which were aimed at instigating sectarian strife in Lebanon.

"I cannot separate the plot uncovered last month and what happened yesterday... After the discovery of explosives, logic dictates that the two cases are related," AFP quoted Mikati as having said, without mentioning Syria by name.

President Michel Sleiman echoed him, saying telling a cabinet meeting that the bombing targeted "the head of an efficient security agency who was able to dismantle several terrorist networks... and uncover others, the most important of which is linked to the explosives carried by Samaha from Syria."

Anti-Syria opposition chief Saad Hariri said, "Each of you is personally called on to attend (the funeral) of Wissam al-Hassan, who protected Lebanon from the plot of Bashar al-Assad and Ali Mamluk (head of Syrian intelligence)."

Thousands of people are expected in central Beirut for the funeral, AFP reported.

Lebanese opposition figures had demanded that Mikati and his government quit after the blast which killed Hassan, 47.

However, Mikati told reporters Sleiman had asked him to stay on.

"He asked that I stay in place because it is not a personal issue but one of the national interest," he said, according to AFP.

Meanwhile, the report said, Saturday was declared a day of mourning for Hassan, who was killed in Ashrafieh, a mainly Christian area.

Protesters, some burning tyres, blocked roads in Beirut, Sidon in the south, Tripoli in the north and the Bekaa Valley in the east.

The Hizbullah terror group, Assad’s proxy in Lebanon, was also blamed for the attack on Saturday. The group, which dominates the Lebanese parliament, and is an arm of Damascus and Iran, called the bombing "an attempt to destabilize Lebanon and national unity." Syria also condemned the attack, calling it "terrorist” and “cowardly", according to AFP.

Walid Jumblatt, the influential Druze leader and one of those who blamed Assad for the attack, told AFP, “The Syrian regime is expert in political assassinations. Our response needs to be political. A president who burns Syria and is the executioner of Damascus does not care if Lebanon burns."