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Calls to oust Lahoud mark Hariri memorial

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Lebanon marked the first anniversary of the slaying of ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri with fiery speeches calling for ousting pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud.

An estimated one million Lebanese who gathered Tuesday at Martyr's Square, renamed Freedom Square, near Hariri's tomb, shouted "we want revenge from Lahoud and (Syrian President) Bashar (Assad)."

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Syria and its allies in Lebanon are suspected of being behind Hariri's assassination in Beirut last Feb. 14, and of the killings of anti-Syrian politicians and journalists.

Hariri's son and political heir, Saad Hariri, was cheered by the crowd when he called on the Syrians to take what he called "the symbol of their hegemony in Lebanon from Baabda Palace," in reference to the seat of the president of the republic.

"Remove the remnant of your security system and symbol of tutorship in Baabda... The people of Lebanon will not barter over the blood of Rafik Hariri," Saad said.

Druze overlord Waleed Jumblat resorted to even harsher rhetoric, telling Lahoud "the terrorist Bashar (Assad) brought you but the proud Lebanese people will uproot you."

"There will be no real independence and sovereignty as long as the symbol of treachery and collaboration with the Syrian regime is staying in Baabda," Jumblat added.

He blasted Bashar Assad as "the tyrant of Damascus," stressing that Lebanese opposed to the Syrian regime's interference in Lebanon are not "a fictitious majority," as claimed by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, head of the pro-Syria Hezbollah.

Christian leader and head of the Lebanese Forces party, Samir Geagea, said the Lebanese will recover the seat of the president of the republic usurped by Lahoud, "no matter how long it will take."

"The presidency is ours and we will recover it... Lebanon will no longer be a hostage for anyone or a puppet in the hands of anyone," Geagea said.

Both Geagea and Jumblat called for extending legitimate government control over all Lebanon, including the south which is virtually under the control of Hezbollah militants.

"There will be no real independence and sovereignty as long as the legitimate authority of the state is stopped at the borders of the camps, suburbs and south Lebanon... No real independence without the implementation of international resolutions," Jumblat added, referring to Security Council resolutions that call for disarming Hezbollah and armed Palestinian groups and extending government control over all Lebanese territory.

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