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Annan booed off in Beirut’s Hezbollah stronghold

August 29, 2006

HARET HREIK (Lebanon), Aug 28: UN chief Kofi Annan was booed by a crowd chanting pro-Hezbollah slogans on Monday as he toured Beirut’s southern suburbs devastated by Israel’s war against the militant group.

Dozens of men, women and children angrily waved pictures of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and shouted ‘Allah, Nasrallah and all of the suburbs’ as the UN secretary general emerged from his car to survey the destruction in the heart of the Haret Hreik area, a Hezbollah stronghold.

Others booed and shouted ‘death to Israel’ and ‘long live Syria’ as they surrounded Mr Annan’s convoy of vehicles which was accompanied by a heavy security detail.

Mr Annan was accompanied by Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, Foreign Minister Fawzi Sallukh as well as Hezbollah MPs.

His visit lasted barely 10 minutes as nervous security officers whisked him quickly out of the area.

The United Nations and the international community were much criticised during Israel’s offensive for failing to stop the bloodshed that claimed almost 1,500 lives, most of them Lebanese civilians.

One woman, clad in a black chador, laid a portrait of Nasrallah face down on the tinted glass of one of the moving vehicles.

“To hell with the United Nations and Annan,” said Jamil Bashir Al-Abed, 31, a resident of the area whose home was damaged by the Israeli bombardments.

“Let him look at what the UN and the United States have done and at all this destruction,” he added, pointing to flattened building and tons of debris. “This is their work.”

A group of women carrying posters of Nasrallah angrily denounced the United Nations saying the world body was in collusion with Israel.

“Isn’t he (Annan) ashamed of what happened to us?” said one of the women who would only give her name as Ihsan. “He’s as powerless as the rest of them to stop Israel’s aggression.”

Another woman, however, praised Mr Annan saying that he had demonstrated his solidarity with the Lebanese people by travelling to Beirut.

“I heard what he said earlier on television and I think he is a man of peace,” she said.

Prior to Mr Annan’s arrival, bulldozers and dump trucks could be seen clearing rubble as patriotic music blasted in the background and street vendors sold key chains emblazoned with Nasrallah’s image or CDs of his speeches.

Several also distributed free posters of the Hezbollah leader to the crowd.

Mr Annan arrived in Beirut on Monday for a two-day visit during which he was to meet Lebanese leaders to discuss the deployment of UN troops in southern Lebanon and other security issues.

He is due to travel to the southern town of Naqura on Tuesday before heading to Israel.—AFP