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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lebanese Protest Blair's Arrival

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- About 2,000 Lebanese protested against British Prime Minister Tony Blair's visit to Beirut on Monday, accusing him of backing Israel's 34-day war with Hezbollah, and several Cabinet ministers refused to meet him.

"He was a party in the war," said Lebanese Health Minister Mohammed Khalifeh, of the Shiite Muslim Amal movement. "He supported the U.S. position and did not call for a cease-fire. ... It is natural that we do not receive him."

Blair angered many Lebanese by his refusal to call for an early cease-fire in the conflict, which killed nearly 1,200 people in Lebanon, mainly civilians, and 157 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

Two Hezbollah ministers also declined to attend Blair's talks with the Lebanese government, even though a spokesman for Blair said the British leader had been ready to meet them.

Blair had also been due to meet Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who is the leader of Amal and a Hezbollah ally, but an aide to Berri said he had left on a private visit abroad.

Troops, riot police and barbed-wire barriers kept the demonstrators well away from the government building in downtown Beirut, where Blair met Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

"I'm standing here because Blair is the killer of Lebanese children," said Ibad Malak, a 19-year-old student.

Blair, the first British prime minister to visit Lebanon, was discussing with Siniora a UN truce in effect since Aug. 14 and Britain's contribution to postwar reconstruction.

His spokesman said Britain had provided 22.3 million pounds ($41.6 million) in humanitarian aid and was giving another 20 million pounds to support UN peacekeepers in Lebanon. The British destroyer HMS York is also involved in efforts to patrol Lebanon's coast to enforce a UN arms embargo.

Some protesters held placards reading "Thank you Blair for delivering the intelligent bombs" -- referring to U.S. flights carrying bombs for Israel that refueled in Scotland during the war. "Blair you killer, go to hell," read another.

Security sources said about 2,000 people had turned out for the protests, organized by Hezbollah and its pro-Syrian allies.