Lebanese leaders criticize violent protests

Lebanese leaders have condemned Sunday's violent protests which were responses to the publication of caricatures of Islam's Prophet Mohammad in European newspapers.

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud said late on Sunday: "Any kind of expression should be within the range of enlightenment and democracy, and not be tools for destroying Lebanon's peace, stability and national unity."

He strongly condemned the attacks on a Christian church in the Ashrafieh area -- a Christian neighborhood in Beirut, admonishing the demonstrators, and appealing to them, and all Lebanese, to actively maintain national unity.

With regard to the violence in the protests, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora said in a television interview that some disruptive organizations had attempted to incite the riots, with the aim of deliberately fracturing Lebanese peace.

These organizations were not concerned with the issue of blasphemy, rather, they wanted violent confrontation for its own sake, Siniora said.

Lebanese parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri, on Sunday, called for an investigation to identify the protest organizers responsible, and bring them to account.

He said: "We advocate democracy and back the way of protest. But we can not accept and agree with it if the expression went beyond the limits."

Lebanese Interior Minister Hassan Sabei, who resigned hours after protestors attacked and burned the Danish consulate in Beirut, also condemned the violence.

He stressed that security forces will keep investigating the riots. He said that many of the agitators were detained by security forces and added that most of them were not Lebanese.

On Sunday, thousands of Lebanese Muslims headed for the Ashrafieh area where the Danish Embassy is located to protest the publication of caricatures of Islam's Prophet Mohammad in Danish and other European newspapers.

The protesters, armed with stones and sticks, damaged police and fire service vehicles and stoned a Maronite Catholic church, reports Xinhua.


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