Lebanese divided in rallies on Syria
BEIRUT - Hundreds of people took to the streets of Beirut on Sunday for two separate rallies, one expressing support for the regime in neighbouring Syria and the other calling for its downfall.
Supporters of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad staged a demonstration to thank Russia and China for supporting his regime, an AFP journalist reported.
Demonstrators held posters bearing slogans including "Thank you Russia!" and "Lebanon for ever with Assad's Syria," and also chanted slogans against Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which support the anti-regime revolt.
They also waved flags of Syria, Damascus' main regional ally Iran and the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, which supports Assad.
Later, in the heart of the Lebanese capital, hundreds of supporters of radical Sunni Sheikh Ahmed al-Assir gathered for a protest held for "our brothers in Syria".
Protesters waved Syrian independence flags, in support for the revolt that broke out in March last year.
Speaking at the rally, Assir expressed opposition to Hezbollah, describing the movement as "complicit in the crimes of Bashar".
On Thursday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said that although there has been no decision by the party to engage in fighting in Syria, some Lebanese residents of Syria have indeed taken up arms in support of the regime, "in order to defend themselves."
Syria dominated Lebanon politically and militarily for three decades, and the small Mediterranean country is deeply divided over the conflict in its neighbour.
Hezbollah and its allies support Assad, while the pro-Western March 14 coalition is against his regime.