Lebanese Protest High Gas Prices Fri May 28,12:27 PM ET By SAM F. GHATTAS, Associated Press Writer BEIRUT, Lebanon - Protesters angered by high gasoline prices blocked roads with burning tires in the southern suburbs of Beirut on Friday, but both sides seemed eager to avoid the bloodshed that claimed six lives a day earlier. AP Photo Hundreds of demonstrators took over streets in Hay al-Soulom, a low-income suburb, but there was no shooting or stone-throwing Friday and soldiers kept their distance from demonstrators. A day earlier, soldiers had fired on the protesters, killing five and wounding more than 30 people in Lebanon's worst civil unrest in more than a decade. A civil defense firefighter also died after being hit by gunfire. The Lebanese Army staged a show of force to deter troublemakers Friday. Troops and armored vehicles took up positions in the suburb, and elite soldiers guarded the nearby highway to the airport. As funerals for three of the demonstrators were held in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley region, protesters blocked the main road to Baalbek, a city famous for its ancient Roman ruins, with hulks of old cars and metal electricity poles. Motorists had to make detours to get into the city. Sheik Nabil Amhaz, a Hezbollah cleric and relative of one of the dead, blamed the government for the death of demonstrator Zakaria Amhaz. "Couldn't they use water? Don't they have means other than bullets?" he asked at a funeral in the town of Hermel. "All of Lebanon and all those who have conscience know that this is not acceptable." Two newspapers, An-Nahar and As-Safir, reported that Syria had met with various Lebanese groups late Thursday to try to prevent further clashes with soldiers. The reports could not be confirmed, but word of Syrian involvement usually carries weight in Lebanon. Syria stations about 20,000 troops in Lebanon and is the country's power broker. This dominance was among reasons that the United States imposed trade sanctions on Syria earlier this month. Lebanese President Emile Lahoud visited wounded soldiers and demonstrators in hospitals Friday. In a statement, Lahoud urged all sides to behave responsibly and not to be driven by emotion. Acknowledging that economic conditions were difficult, Lahoud said that rioting was unacceptable and "increases the present difficulties." Prime Minister Rafik Hariri issued a statement late Thursday expressing regret and warning that "chaos does not serve anyone." The riots occurred during a strike called by labor unions to demand lower gasoline prices and in protest against the government's economic policies. The Hezbollah movement, which tends to dominate Hay al-Soulom and nearby Shiite Muslim districts, condemned the shootings. In an apparent bid to defuse tension, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah canceled a news conference he had called for Friday. The Hezbollah press office said its leaders were consulting the authorities and other political parties about the unrest. The trouble began Thursday when soldiers fired on demonstrators who were throwing stones and blocking roads with burning tires. What started with about 40 protesters, mostly commercial drivers angry at high fuel prices, rapidly grew to about 2,000 as word of the shootings spread. Rioters stormed a Labor Ministry building in the southern suburb of Chiah and set it on fire. Twenty soldiers were wounded, the military said. Witnesses said a cameraman and a news photographer were also wounded. Dozens of demonstrators were detained, security officials said. The unions want the government to drop the price of five gallons of gasoline from $16.60 to $10. About 40 percent of the fuel price consists of taxes. Next week, Beirut is to host a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which is expected to decide to increase the cartel's output to curb the recent rise in oil prices. The riots came amid increasing public anger over what is seen as mismanagement of the economy since the end of the 1975-90 civil war, causing a sharp rise in the cost of living. The economy is shackled with $32 billion debt, or more than 180 percent of the country's gross domestic product. http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tm...&u=/ap/20040528/ap_on_re_mi_ea/lebanon_strike Tee hee hee. Thought this was going to be in the United States?