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11634
“Mess Report / Fearing Civil War, Lebanese Citizens Arm Themselves”
by Haaretz Service - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff   
October 11th, 2010

Volatile probe into 2005 murder of Ex-Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri, upcoming Ahmadinejad visit, could easily set off a country on verge of explosion.

The latest reports from Lebanon describe a frightened country; the Lebanese are terrified about the prospect of a slide toward civil war. Several reports speculate that Beirut residents are arming themselves in expectation of a flare-up of violence between the two main antagonists in Lebanon today: Hezbollah and its allies on the one hand, and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his supporters on the other.

The investigation of the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, the father of the current premier, could turn out to be the spark that sets off the tinderbox.

A Lebanon-based website has in recent days posted an interview with an arms dealer who lives in Beirut and reports that there has been a rise in the sale of light firearms. He says the sales have spiked as a result of a clash in a Beirut neighborhood, Burj Abu Haidar, between an extremist pro-Syria Sunni group and Hezbollah militants; four people were killed in the skirmish (one was a Hezbollah commander, who died at the start of the fighting ).

In the meantime, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Lebanon this week has opponents of Hezbollah worried. The visit, perceived as a blunt statement about Iran's influence over Lebanon, has stirred concerns over how incendiary Ahmadinejad might be when he visits the southern part of the country and tours sites near Israel's border.

According to Beirut residents, the Hariri assassination casts a long, ominous shadow over daily life in Lebanon's capital, and has come in recent weeks to dominate public discussions. The release of the next report on the Hariri assassination, prepared by a special international prosecutor, has been deferred, by probably another two months at least.

Lebanon is rife with speculation that the report will lead to indictments against several top Hezbollah figures; many believe that the prosecutor has postponed the document's release as a way of getting more time to build an irrefutable case against these figures. As tensions in the country rise, well-placed Lebanese sources describe the country's mood as "gloomy." Though its scope is difficult to determine, the sources point to a trend that the country has already seen in its war-torn past: Lebanese residents are reportedly leaving the country.

 

 


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