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Calls for mass turnout at Lebanese funeral

Lebanese citizens are being encouraged to attend the funeral of the slain intelligence officer killed in a car blast. The country's opposition is hoping the turnout will be a massive rally against Syria.

Lebanon's opposition is calling for a massive turnout for the funeral of top police intelligence chief General Wissam al-Hassan. Hassan was killed in a car bombing on Friday that has been attributed to the Damascus regime.

Hassan, who uncovered an alleged Syrian bomb plot inside Lebanon two months ago, was killed in a huge car bomb blast that also killed seven other people and wounded 80 in Beirut's Ashrafiyeh district on Friday.

"Every one of you is personally invited tomorrow to Martyr's Square to the prayers for Wissam al-Hassan," former prime minister Saad Hariri said in a statement broadcast by Future Television on Saturday.

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Lebanon observes day of national mourning

Hariri has blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the bombing, and Lebanon's political opposition has demanded the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Makati.

Mikati said on Saturday that he wanted to resign to make way for a "consensus government" but had accepted a request by President Michel Suleiman to stay in office to allow time for talks on a way out of the political crisis.

Protests erupt

Thousands of people are expected in central Beirut for the funeral at the Al-Amine mosque on Sunday.

Protests also occurred around Lebanon on Saturday as the day was declared a day of mourning for Hassan. Crowds burned tyres and blocked roads in Sidon in the south, Tripoli in the north and the Bekaa Valley in the east.

An undated handout picture shows the head of the Information Branch in Lebanon's Internal Security Forces (ISF), Wissam al-Hassan, who was killed in a car bomb blast in Beirut, Lebanon. (EPA/LEBANESE INTERNAL SECURITY FORCES HANDOUT)

General Wissam al-Hassan

In Tripoli, things turned violent overnight as firefights erupted after the office of pro-Hezbollah Sunni party Tawhid was attacked and a Sunni sheikh and party member was killed in crossfire, a security official said.

Sectarian tensions in Lebanon have been exacerbated by the conflict in Syria, where Muslims are fighting to get rid of Assad.

Meanwhile, in Damascus, peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has pressed on Syria for a truce to break the cycle of 19 months of bloodshed there.

tm/ccp (AFP, Reuters)

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