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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lebanese Protesters Demand Siniora Cede Power or Resign

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Thousands of Hezbollah-led protesters gathered in downtown Beirut on Sunday, demanding Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora cede power to the opposition or step down.

The demonstration could be a tipping point in Lebanon's burgeoning political crisis, ten days after a coalition of largely pro-Syrian opposition groups launched a series of rallies against Siniora's anti-Syrian, U.S.-backed government.

Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday urged the international community to commit to seeking "urgent solutions" to the problems in Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East.

The pontiff, who made the remarks during his traditional blessing, also asked the Lebanese and their leaders "to have to heart exclusively the best for their country and harmony between its communities."

Lebanese combat troops and armed police sealed off major roads and added more layers of barbed wire around the prime minister's sprawling downtown complex, where he has been holed up with most of his ministers since Dec. 1.

The political unrest has split the country along dangerous sectarian lines, with most Sunni Muslims supporting the Sunni prime minister and Shiite Muslims backing the militant group Hezbollah. Christian factions are split between the two camps.

Thousands of demonstrators camped out in two downtown Beirut squares overnight, and thousands more joined the crowd early Sunday. Several hundred tents have lined the area for more than one week.