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Friday, January 21, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Hizbullah said to stage coup rehearsals in Beirut

NICOSIA — The Iran-sponsored Hizbullah organization, which recently collapsed the Lebanon coalition government by withdrawing, is said to have simulated a coup in Beirut.


Lebanese sources said Hizbullah staged a massive exercise on Jan. 18 in which thousands of fighters appeared on the streets of Beirut. They said the exercise was meant to simulate a rapid overthrow of the caretaker government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

"Hizbullah did not bring their weapons with them, but that was not necessary for them to send their message," a Lebanese government source said.

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Instead, Hizbullah operatives appeared in black uniforms and held tactical radios in their unannounced exercise. The operatives did not confront pedestrians and the exercise proceeded without incident.

The sources said Hizbullah has sought to intimidate Hariri into resigning immediately. They said a replacement for Hariri as Lebanon's next Sunni prime minister might not be found for several months.

In response, Lebanese security forces have been reinforced around Hariri's office as well as other key government institutions. The U.S.-trained units have deployed armored personnel carriers as well as cement barriers to prevent Hizbullah access.

For his part, Hariri said he would continue as prime minister despite the Hizbullah campaign. But some of his allies acknowledged that they have been under Syrian pressure to support former Prime Minister Omar Karami as the next head of government.

"They have put aside all solutions and demanded Saad Al Hariri be excluded," Hariri, referring to Hizbullah, said.

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