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Page last updated at 15:08 GMT, Sunday, 14 February 2010

Lebanon marks fifth anniversary of Hariri assassination

Rally in Martyrs' Square, Beirut, Lebanon to mark 5th anniversary of assassination of Rafik Hariri, then prime minister - 14 February 2010
Rafik Hariri's son, now prime minister, urged his supporters to come to the rally

Thousands of people have gathered in Lebanon's capital, Beirut, to mark the fifth anniversary of the killing of its former prime minister, Rafik Hariri.

He had been campaigning against Syrian involvement in Lebanon when he was killed with 21 others in a bombing.

Public protests led Syria to withdraw its troops after a 29-year deployment.

Mr Hariri's son, Saad, who accused Syria of carrying out the killing, is now prime minister leading a government including pro-Syrian groups.

The prime minister urged his supporters to turn out in force at Martyrs' Square in central Beirut, and they answered his call, says the BBC's Natalia Antelava at the rally.

What we got is a process that takes time, and whoever thinks that this justice will not come is very wrong
Saad Hariri

Speaking to the crowded square, Saad Hariri spoke of his father's legacy and called for the UN tribunal set up to investigate his murder to deliver justice.

"We demand the truth, so that darkness does not win. We demand justice, so that revenge does not rule. We demand that the international tribunal act, in order to rectify this crime."

He also defended his recent decision to go to Syria, where he met President Bashar Assad - once his enemy.

"In all truth, honesty and responsibility, I am keen on keeping this window open, and on building a new era in Lebanese-Syrian relations, from one sovereign, free and independent state to another."

Friend or foe?

The UN recently launched a tribunal to try the suspects in Mr Hariri's murder.

During the early stages of the investigation, the UN implicated top Syrian officials, including the brother-in-law of President Assad, in the killing.

Saad Hariri: "The tribunal is moving forward. All we have to do really is to be patient"

But now it is not clear whether the tribunal will provide evidence proving this link.

In Lebanon, many have been critical of the investigation, saying that it has been slow and inefficient.

But in an interview with the BBC, Prime Minister Hariri defended the tribunal.

"What we got is a process that takes time, and whoever thinks that this justice will not come is very wrong, very dead wrong," he said.

"Everything in that tribunal is moving forward in the right way. All we have to do really is to be patient."

Mr Hariri also said that he had to put his personal feelings aside to meet President Assad in Syria.

"I went to Damascus because I am the prime minister of Lebanon. It does not matter what I said in the past. What's important today is that I act as somebody who believes that Lebanon benefits from a good relationship with Syria," he added.

In this deeply divided country, some supporters of Mr Hariri welcome this approach, yet others say that they are deeply disappointed, says our Beirut correspondent.

As one politician here put it, our correspondent adds, Mr Hariri's new attitude towards Syria undermines everything that he had fought for.



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SEE ALSO
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Syrian detained in Hariri killing
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Hariri court opens at The Hague
01 Mar 09 |  Middle East
Arab leaders meet to heal rifts
11 Mar 09 |  Middle East
Three released in Hariri inquiry
25 Feb 09 |  Middle East
Lebanon remembers Hariri killing
14 Feb 09 |  Middle East
Search for justice for Rafik Hariri
13 Feb 09 |  Middle East


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