Hariri Rally, Hezbollah Funeral Reveal Beirut Divide Thousands of pro-government supporters are gathering Thursday in Beirut to mark the third anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Later in southern Beirut, a funeral will be held for a senior Hezbollah commander who was killed this week.
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Hariri Rally, Hezbollah Funeral Reveal Beirut Divide

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Hariri Rally, Hezbollah Funeral Reveal Beirut Divide

Hariri Rally, Hezbollah Funeral Reveal Beirut Divide

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STEVEN INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Thousands of people in Lebanon tried to show their country's unity today. The gathering was intended to bring together the Christian and Muslim communities in a fractured nation, so church bells rang at the same as the Muslim call to prayer.

(Soundbite of bells ringing and Muslim call to prayer)

But that was not the only gathering on the streets of Beirut today. The BBC's Mike Sergeant is in the Lebanese capital.

Mr. MIKE SERGEANT (Reporter, BBC): The situation in Beirut is unprecedented with two high profile events being held within a few hours of each other. Thousands of Lebanese army troops have been deployed on the streets. Huge crowds have gathered in the center of the city for the third anniversary of the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Most of these demonstrators support the government, and their opponents of Syrian involvement in Lebanon.

Later on, in the southern suburbs of Beirut, pro-Syrian supporters of Hezbollah will attended the funeral of Imad Mughniyeh, a senior commander killed in Damascus on Tuesday. Tens of thousands are expected to march behind his coffin, and the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is due to address the crowd on a giant video screen.

INSKEEP: That's the BBC's Mike Sergeant.

So even as one demonstration supports a pro-Western government, that funeral celebrates a man considered a terrorist in the West. The slain militant was said to be behind attacks that left hundreds of Americans and Israelis dead. He was even accused of involvement in the 1985 hijacking of a TWA jetliner.

As those two gatherings suggest the divisions in Lebanon, the Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is appealing for peace.

Prime Minister FOUAD SINIORA (Lebanon): (Through translator) And we call on our brothers who have not joined us to think deeply so that our causes can be one, and they are in reality. And so our mottos can be one and our demonstrations one and victories one.

MONTAGNE: At today's government rally, music played over loud speakers as people gathered in pouring rain.

(Soundbite of music)

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