BEIRUT: Controversial Sidon preacher Sheikh Ahmad Assir held a rally in Beirut's al-Tariq al-Jadideh neighborhood in support of the Syrian uprising, pledging undying loyalty to the rebels, according to the National News Agency (NNA).
"May God protect you ... We will remain with you until the end of our lives," he said in a speech delivered at Imam Ali mosque in Beirut's al-Tariq al-Jadideh neighborhood following Friday prayers.
Addressing hundreds of people who responded to his call to assemble at the mosque, Assir also said that “the Syrian-Iranian project has nothing to do with resistance,” depicting it as an “assassination project.”
Assir also touched on the recent detention of Michel Samaha, who was taken into custody Thursday over a plot to carry out bomb attacks in Lebanon. He hailed the Internal Security Forces (ISF) for its action.
“The ISF has offered us a precious gift in the last two days, one that makes us hold our heads high,” Assir said.
He also stressed that the belief that the Syrian regime was conciliatory toward the Christians of Syria and Lebanon had proven to be false. He added that the Syrian regime has harmed Christians in Lebanon and pointed out that several prominent members of the Syrian opposition are Christian.
Assir also claimed that, “The criminal Iranian project has always tricked the region,” and accused Iran of being behind the assassinations in Lebanon, including that of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and attempted assassinations, such as that which recently targeted MP Butros Harb.
Last week, Assir’s supporters ended a month long sit-in that had raised political tensions in the city. Assir and his followers, who closed Sidon’s highway for over a month in protest at Hezbollah’s arms, dismantled the tents they had erected after securing token concessions from government officials.
The sit-in had sparked protests by the city’s businessmen and political figures, who complained that the preacher was adversely affecting the local economy.
Friday marked the second time Assir took to Beirut’s streets. The first time was earlier this year in a demonstration in Downtown Beirut to rally support for the Syrian opposition against President Bashar Assad’s regime.