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Assir cancels anti-Hezbollah protest to avert clash in south Lebanon
Sheikh Ahmad Assir speaks in the southern city of Sidon, Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
Sheikh Ahmad Assir speaks in the southern city of Sidon, Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
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SIDON, Lebanon: Sheikh Ahmad Assir cancelled his usual Friday protest in order to avert a clash with Hezbollah and Amal Movement supporters on their way to southern town of Nabatieh to commemorate the 34th anniversary of the disappearance of Imam Musa Sadr.

A security source told The Daily Star that it would have been a risk for Assir and his supporters to carry out their weekly protest and block the road connecting Sidon to south Lebanon, since the Lebanese Army would have had difficulties intervening in any clashes.

Assir and his supporters held a monthlong sit-in between July and August in protest against Hezbollah’s arms, during which the northern entrance to Sidon was blocked.

The sheikh ended the sit-in after he received a promise from President Michel Sleiman that the issue of Hezbollah’s arms would be resolved via National Dialogue. Assir proceeded to hold weekly protests against Hezbollah and, at times, the Syrian government.

During his Friday sermon in the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque, Assir said: “Everyone was waiting for us today to see whether we would take to the streets or block the road.”

Referring to Sadr, who disappeared on a visit to Libya in 1978, Assir said: “He is a generous imam and we support the oppressed and there is freedom of speech in Lebanon.”

“It is time our partners realize that we should live as partners and side by side in this country,” Assir said, reiterating his opposition to what he described as Hezbollah’s “hegemony.”

But he voiced disappointment over the failure of Sleiman to address the issue of Hezbollah’s arsenal, saying: “We received a promise from the leaders but they failed us.”

“Don’t ask me when or where, but we will resume our protest,” he added.

One of the main items on the National Dialogue agenda between rival leaders is the issue of resolving the issue of Hezbollah’s arms. Earlier this months, Berri failed to attend the session, prompting Sleiman to postpone discussion on the party’s weapons.

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