Angry protesters including an Irish peace activist who disrupted a news conference Monday -- marred a visit by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who had sided with Washington against a quick cease-fire in the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict.
Blair, flew to Beirut in a show of support for the nation's government nearly a month after a 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah devastated vital damage infrastructure nationwide. Britain's leader said he was not surprised by the strong feelings of those who accused him of backing Israel's monthlong offensive, which killed more than 850 people in Lebanon, most of them civilians. Blair has defended his stance on the Lebanon war, saying it was important to take the time to craft a settlement that would hold rather than settle for a quick peace likely to collapse.
As Blair stood beside Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, Caoimhe Butterly, a well-known Irish peace activist, shouted that the British leader's visit was "an insult." "Shame on you Tony Blair," Butterly yelled, holding a banner that read: "Boycott Israeli apartheid." Her protest was captured by live television cameras, until security guards holding her by her arms and legs escorted her out of Saniora's office complex. The two leaders watched in silence, then Saniora said: "It's all right, we are in a democracy ... we respect all sorts of expression."
Outside, about 5,000 protesters -- kept about half a kilometer from the government headquarters -- shouted angry chants. "Blair, you are not welcome in Lebanon," read one banner. "Blair, you are a killer, go away," said another.
Protesters waved Lebanese flags and photos of some of the hundreds killed in Lebanon during the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas that ended August 14 with a United Nations-brokered cease-fire. "America is the greatest Satan, and Blair is the dog of the Satan," some protesters shouted.