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Rhetoric intensifies in Lebanon

The premier accuses Hezbollah's leader of threatening a coup.

December 09, 2006|From the Associated Press

BEIRUT — Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Friday accused Hezbollah's leader of threatening a coup, part of an unusually harsh exchange that stoked tensions as the Shiite militant group said it would escalate its attempts to oust the government.

Siniora spoke to hundreds of supporters at his fortified office, where he has been living for more than a week.

Outside, pro-Hezbollah demonstrators in a nearby square replayed on loudspeakers a Thursday night speech in which their leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, accused the prime minister of siding with Israel during the summer war between the militant group and the Jewish state.

The prime minister said Nasrallah was "threatening a coup, and his statements carry all the seeds of dissension and threat."

Siniora criticized the Hezbollah leader for his attitude in the speech, in which Nasrallah accused the prime minister of being stubborn and said members of the government were responsible for the war, which began after Hezbollah seized two Israeli soldiers.

Siniora, who has received strong Western and Arab support, repeated that Hezbollah's protests, which were in their eighth day, would not force his resignation.

Pro-Syria Hezbollah and its opposition allies have called for a huge demonstration today, saying it would mark an escalation in their attempts to oust the U.S.-backed premier.

Hezbollah and its allies began demonstrating after Siniora rejected their demands for a third of the Cabinet's seats.

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