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Hezbollah and Its Allies Block Roads across Lebanon


Lebanese Army troops fire back at demonstrators attacking them with stones in the normally busy Mazraa commercial district, here in Beirut.

Both the army and police clashed with supporters of the Hezbollah guerilla group and its allies in other Beirut neighborhoods as demonstrators blocked key avenues and intersections with burning tires and debris.

Thick clouds of black smoke also poured into the air, as an army bulldozer tried to re-open Lebanon's main coastal highway, north of the city. Casualties were reported in the northern port city of Tripoli after government supporters exchanged gunfire with strikers.

A crowd of mostly young demonstrators began blocking the road to Beirut Airport, erecting a barrier of burning tires, early in the morning, and playing soccer on the highway, as army troops and police watched without intervening.

A top opposition leader and Hezbollah ally, General Michel Aoun, accuses the government and its supporters of attacking and injuring some demonstrators.

"Demonstrators were attacked in northern Lebanon, around the port city of Byblos, and in the town of Jounieh, by gangs allied to the government."

Hezbollah's al Manar TV is continues to broadcast non-stop images of demonstrators burning tires, amid accusations the government of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora is not performing its duties to the people. In Beirut's city center, several rows of army troops, surrounded by barbed wire, mount vigil in front of the prime minister's office, as protesters block traffic along a nearby bridge.

Al Arabiya TV reports Prime Minister Fouad Saniora remains holed up inside the old refurbished Ottoman fortress that serves as his headquarters, keeping a close tab of the situation. Mr. Saniora had been expected to leave Beirut, early today, to attend an international donor's conference in Paris to help relieve some of Lebanon's 41-billion-dollar debt. Lebanese Minister of Youth and Sport Ahmed Fatfat -- a key supporter of the prime minister -- complains demonstrators are trying to impose their strike on what he calls "an unwilling population."

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