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Wednesday, February 15, 2006 

2005: millions march in Beirut. 2006: thousands march in Beirut

Organisers of today's march in Beirut are coming to terms with a disappointing turn-out, one year on from Rafiq Hariri's death. Last year, millions marched on the capital in support of their slain leader. This year, a couple of hundred thousand went on to the city's streets.

But it was more of a rejection of the political mood than a rejection of the Hariri legacy.

Last spring, young Lebanese rallied round their political leaders, hoping that a new unity, a new political reality was about to be born. This spring, they are coming to realise that the unity was short-lived - torn about by the sectarian divisions of the election campaigns - and the new political reality is a political stalemate.

The mood on the Lebanese street is of lost opportunity.

And today's rally was boycotted by the main Christian leader Michel Aoun - the man who paints himself as the real opposition failed to ally himself with the Hariri-bloc last year, but still managed to win most of the seats in the Christian heartland.

Sa'ad Al-Hariri spoke to the crowd - well, the handful of people - from behind a glass screen. No, he doesn't think he's the pope, he's worried that one of his adoring fans might shoot him.

And he unveiled Lebanon's new mantra: 'Lebanon first', in a deliberate snub to the three-quarters of a million Palestinian refugees and thousands of Syrian workers.

But, in an interview with Lebanese television, Sa'ad Al-Hariri cut a more concilliatory tone:

"We do not ask for a change of regime in Syria, but that it makes peace. We thank Syria for having ended the war in Lebanon but we will handle our own affairs now ... The Syrian regime did a lot of wrong in Lebanon and spared her neither insults nor threats."

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  • From Damascus, Syria
  • From Damascus to London via Beirut. Based in and out of the central Damascene hamlet of Saroujah. News and feelings from the streets every day. I'm talking rubbish? Leave a comment. Welcome to the information democracy. See below for info about this site.
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