Hezbollah-backed candidate calls for calm amid violent protests
Ahram Online and AFP, Tuesday 25 Jan 2011
Najib Mikati, Hezbollah's candidate for the premiership, has called on Lebanese to remain calm after thousands of protesters took to Tripoli's streets, setting vehicles alight in a declared 'day of rage'

The Hezbollah-backed candidate for the premiership, Najib Mikati , called on the Lebanese to exercise restraint amid violent protests in the country that primarily erupted in opposition to his candidacy.

"Whatever happens, Hariri is my brother and friend," Mikati declared adding that all Lebanese constitute a single family.

Mikati clinched on Tuesday the backing of a majority of MPs in order to be appointed as Lebanon's new prime minister.

Sleiman was expected to appoint Mikati to head the new government later on Tuesday after wrapping up his consultations with parliamentary groups.

During a declared “day of rage”, protests turned violent on Tuesday in Lebanon's Sunni bastion of Tripoli as frenzied demonstrators, at one point, wrecked an Al-Jazeera van while protesting the likely appointment Mikati.The trapped Al-Jazeera crew later escaped amid gun fire, according to Al-Jazeera TV.

Angry demonstrators had set upon their vehicle, smashing the windshield and tearing down the satellite dish before setting it on fire, AFP reporters witnessed.

Journalists from the channel and other reporters said they were trapped in a nearby building, waiting for the Lebanese army to intervene.

"If the army does not hurry up and help us, we will be in danger," Al-Jazeera reporter Majed Abdel-Hadi said in a live call broadcast by the channel.

Demonstrators also torched the mopeds of other media outlets considered close to the Iranian-backed Shia group Hezbollah.
Local television reported similar incidents in the capital Beirut but security officials could not confirm the reports.

An AFP photographers witnessed similar incidents in the capital Beirut, where media considered close to the Shia Hezbollah and its allies were attacked by stone-throwing and baton-wielding demonstrators.

There were no immediate reports of injuries in the city, where there was a heavy security presence.

A security official told AFP shots were fired in the air in Beirut. Shots also rang out in Tripoli.

The demonstrators in Tripoli also attacked a building housing the offices of Sunni lawmaker Mohammed al-Safadi breaking windows, doors and throwing furniture from the second-floor balcony.

Safadi had been allied with outgoing premier Saad Al-Hariri's Western-backed coalition but is now backing the Hezbollah-backed candidate for premiership.