Heavy gunfire has been heard in Beirut after protesters attempted to storm a government building. This followed the funeral of a senior Lebanese intelligence official who was killed in a recent bomb attack.
News agencies reported that Lebanese soldiers had fired shots into the air and lobbed volleys of tear gas in an effort to disperse the angry crowd, who had marched towards the office of Prime Minister Najib Mikati to demand that he resign over the killing of Wissam al-Hassan.
Television footage showed a column of soldiers holding back hundreds of protesters outside of the government building.
This followed calls by opposition politicians for the premier to step down. The latest to do so was former Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, who did so during the funeral itself.
"Mikati, you cannot stay in your post to cover up this crime," Siniora said. "If you stay, it means you agree with what happened and what will happen."
Siniora is currently the parliamentary leader for the Future Party of another former prime minister, Saad al-Hariri, who on Saturday had called on the entire country to pay their respects at Hassan’s funeral. He is also among the opposition politicians who have blamed Syria for Friday’s attack.
During the funeral itself, many mourners, dressed in black, waved the sky-blue flag of the Future Party; some carried pictures of Hassan and chanted anti-Syria slogans.
Hassan, an anti-Syria Sunni Muslim, died after a car bomb exploded on Friday. He had helped uncover a bomb plot that led to the arrest and indictment in August of a pro-Damascus Lebanese government minister.
He was also involved in an investigation implicating Syria and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minster Rafik al-Hariri, the father of Saad.
On Saturday, Mikati offered to resign his position and make way for a government of national unity, but then accepted a request by President Michel Suleiman to stay in office, which would allow talks on the political crisis to begin.
pfd, jlw/mkg (dpa, AP, Reuters, AFP)