September 12, 2006
Thousands of Hezbollah supporters on Monday filled the streets of a Beirut suburb heavily bombed in Israeli air raids, defending the militant group's right to bear arms and demanding that the government resign.
In its first rally in Beirut since the end of the war between Israel and Hezbollah, one of the group's 14 members of parliament poured scorn on the cabinet for receiving British Prime Minister Tony Blair earlier on Monday.
"We say to this government, you must go. You must go because you are a government that today received the killer Blair," Ali Ammar told supporters, waving yellow Hezbollah flags on flattened ground or standing on the broken shells of nearby buildings.
"This government cannot be trusted ... What we want is a government of national consensus that includes the honorable faces ... who stood by the Lebanon of resistance, of Arabism, sovereignty, freedom and independence."
Blair's visit was met with protesters who condemned the British leader for not demanding an early end to the war in which over 1,200 people were killed in Lebanon. Over 150 Israelis were killed in the war.
The protesters criticized Blair for allowing planes carrying arms from the United States to Israel to refuel in Britain.
Ammar demanded that a new government be formed that included more politicians who supported Hezbollah during the war, including Christian former general Michel Aoun.
Hezbollah has resisted demands by the international community that it give up its arms.
Ammar, who apologized for the absence of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, said the recent war made talk of disarming the group out of the question.
"The weapons of the resistance are weapons that will stay, stay, stay," he said.
"If you want, through the language of debate or negotiations to negotiate with anyone about these weapons then I will tell you who to negotiate with ... only with the shoes of the children of Qana," he said, referring to a southern Lebanese village where at least 27 civilians, many of them children, were killed by an Israeli air strike.
The war ended on August 14 but Israeli troops remain on Lebanese soil as the United Nations builds up its peacekeeping force to maintain the truce.