Tens of thousands of supporters of the Western-backed opposition in Lebanon gathered in the Sunni bastion of Tripoli on Sunday to denounce the Syrian regime and its Shiite ally Hezbollah.
The rally organised by the Future Movement, the main opposition party headed by ex-premier Saad Hariri, came amid mounting tension over a UN court probing the assassination of Hariri's father and the revolt in neighbouring Syria.
"We initially backed Sheikh Saad for the sake of Lebanon's freedom, but now we also support him for Syria's freedom and to rid the country of Hezbollah's weapons and the regime of (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad," said Mohammed Alameddin, 27.
Mohammed Hamdash, a 40-year-old bank employee, said he was taking part in the demonstration in the northern port city to denounce Lebanon's Hezbollah-dominated government.
"We are here to say that we are against this government imposed by Hezbollah," he said, as fellow demonstrators waved Lebanese and party flags as well as pictures of Saad Hariri and his father Rafiq, who was killed in a massive bombing in 2005.
A UN-backed court—the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL)—has indicted four Hezbollah operatives in connection with the murder.
Sunday's rally came days after Prime Minister Najib Mikati, whose government is dominated by Hezbollah, threatened to resign should his cabinet refuse to pay Lebanon's share of funding to the STL.
Mikati was appointed premier after Hezbollah toppled Saad Hariri's government over its refusal to cut ties with the court based in The Netherlands.
Although Mikati pledged after taking office to uphold Lebanon's international commitments, Hezbollah and its allies in the cabinet are insisting that the country stop all cooperation with the tribunal.
The funding of the STL is due to be discussed at a crucial cabinet meeting next Wednesday.