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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 March, 2005, 11:56 GMT
Mid-East press mull Beirut rally

Newspapers in the Middle East reflect on the growing split in Lebanon over the presence in the country of Syrian troops.

Some warn that the passions aroused in rallies like Tuesday's protest in Beirut organised by the Syrian-allied Hezbollah group could risk plunging the country back into civil war.

But others, including many Iranian commentators, see Hezbollah as a force for good and a positive counterbalance

to American and Israeli plans for the region.

If Lebanon turns into a swamp - God forbid - it will be more dangerous than the Iraqi one

The Palestinian daily al-Quds believes the Tuesday rally "could be considered a face-saving exercise for keeping Syria in Lebanon".

It warns Israel and the US against "using the Lebanese stage for their conspiracies. If Lebanon turns into a swamp - God forbid - it will be more dangerous than the Iraqi one".

Oman's Oman calls for "accord and dialogue between all Lebanese opposition and loyalist forces so that Lebanon can resolve its crisis peacefully"

In Iran, which supports Hezbollah, the conservative Hamshahri points to the possibility of civil war in Lebanon, adding that the Lebanese allies of the US and Israel "are not so powerful as to resist the Islamic-Nationalist movement".

'Lebanon's new leader'

Hamshahri also hails Sheikh Nasrallah as "the country's new leader, who is popular and has freed his country from the enemy's occupation", referring to the withdrawal of Israeli forces in 2000 after sustained losses in fighting with Hezbollah.

The secretary-general of Hezbollah has become the hero of the Arab world

The sentiment is echoed in another Iranian hard-line paper, Kayhan. "Today, the secretary-general of Hezbollah - as the greatest symbol of revolutionary Islam - has become the hero of the Arab world."

Kayhan is delighted that "revolutionary Islam, which was born in Iran, has made its mark in Arab countries".

Similarly, Iran's hard-line Jomhuri-ye Eslami hails Hezbollah as "not merely a political-military party; it is the symbol of Lebanese national honour".

The moderate Iranian daily Etemaad calls for "a national concord, otherwise a new wave of tension will start in Lebanon", urging Hezbollah to use "its legitimacy and popularity" for the benefit of all Lebanese.

'Poisoned arrows'

Another Iranian conservative paper, Resalat, says the political situation "is now contaminated and confused". "America has poisoned its arrows and has targeted Syria, Lebanon and the Islamic Republic of Iran."

The Palestinian paper al-Hayat al-Jadida believes Tuesday's rally reflected the feelings of the whole nation. "Those who went out to demonstrate yesterday were not Shia or Sunni but all of Lebanon."

Nasrallah knows that if the Syrians are removed Beirut yuppies are liable to demand the dismantling of the militia
Commentator in Maariv

The large turn-out and sentiments expressed at the rally gratified Syria's al-Thawrah. "It is good for us to hear words of thanks for what Syria has done for Lebanon over the decades."

A commentator in Israel's Maariv points to the possible ramifications of the Syrian pullout for the future of Hezbollah.

"Nasrallah and his comrades know very well that if the Syrians are removed Beirut yuppies are liable to demand the dismantling of the militia... But in Lebanon, being Lebanon, everything is open - even when it is closed."

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.

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