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Beirut Visit by U.S. Diplomat Sparks Protest

January 15, 2006|Times wire services

BEIRUT — Lebanese riot police fired smoke grenades and sprayed water Saturday to disperse dozens of students protesting the visit of a senior U.S. diplomat to Beirut.

The protest turned nasty when security forces tried to clear demonstrators who gathered outside the government headquarters ahead of a visit by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch.

Some of the protesters, waving Lebanese flags and carrying placards protesting U.S. influence in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East, pelted police with stones.

Welch met for two hours with Lebanese Premier Fuad Siniora to assure his nation of U.S. support, and afterward said Syria must fully cooperate with a United Nations investigation of the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

A U.N. inquiry has implicated Syrian officials in Hariri's death. Damascus denies any role.

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