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Assir plans rally, businessmen counter with demo
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SIDON, Lebanon: Sheikh Ahmad Assir vowed Saturday that Sunday's gathering will be the biggest yet as Sidonite businessmen prepared to confront him peacefully over his open-ended sit-in against Hezbollah's arms.

"I will stay here and tomorrow's gathering will be the biggest yet," Assir told reporters at the site where some 50 supporters are sitting inside and around tents on the road connecting the coastal city with south Lebanon.

He also rejected Interior Minister Marwan Charbel's call for him to reopen the road.

"We apologize to people whose lives have been disrupted by the sit-in and we will compensate them for [financial] losses. We will sell some land for that," the Sidon-based preacher said.

Security sources told The Daily Star Saturday that Assir’s plans for Sunday include contacting figures across the country to carry out similar protests against Hezbollah’s arsenal. They also said that security forces will prevent Assir from blocking any more roads particularly if his aim is the southern sea road.

Civil society groups are expected to meet with Assir Sunday and inform him of the harm inflicted on the city’s businesses due to his sit-in and will warn him of the consequences on Sidon’s diverse demography of his sit-in continues.

Sidon’s political and religious leaders united Friday in calling for the reopening of the road. Their calls were echoed by Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani and the Sidon MPs of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future parliamentary bloc.

At the scene of the sit-in, one of the women participating in the protest told The Daily Star that the purpose of the movement was to protect her children from the resistance party's weapons.

"Don't think that we are happy sitting here but we received orders to. We left our houses to protect our children from the arms of the resistance," Um Amer said.

"They think we are backward," said one of many veiled women as breakfast was being distributed. "But we use laptops, Iphones and Ipads to communicate," indicating the means they were using to contact potential supporters.

Meanwhile, Sidon businessmen are preparing to hold a peaceful protest against Assir at 5 p.m., saying that the sit-in has harmed their livelihood.

In his Friday sermon, Assir addressed Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah and Amal Movement head and Speaker Nabih Berri, saying: “I swear to God ... we will make you pay the price through peaceful means.”

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