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
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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.