Opposition demonstrators blocked roads
Army APC monitor Beirut streets
Fearing a slide into civil war, Lebanon's top Sunni Muslim clerics have issued a religious edict prohibiting Muslims killing their fellow countrymen -- especially Muslims -- or attacking private and public property.
Last week, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Shiite Muslim Hizbullah group that has led a two-month campaign of protests against the government, issued a similar fatwa, or religious ruling, following one of the nation's worst violent sectarian clashes in years.
Maronite Christian clerics also called for a "truce among the nation's sons."
"It is religiously prohibited to engage in fighting with fellow Lebanese in general and Muslims in particular and to attack private and public property," said a statement by the Council of Lebanese Scholars, a Sunni body, that was published in Lebanese newspapers Friday.
The Hizbullah-led opposition has staged two months of demonstrations and sit-ins in a bid to topple the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, who has refused to its demands for a veto-wielding share of the Cabinet.
Clashes between opposition and government supporters last week (Photo: AP)
Last week's violence that began with a scuffle in the cafeteria of a Beirut university between Sunni Muslims and supporters of the Shiite Hizbullah quickly moved into the surrounding streets where cars were set ablaze and battles raged with homemade clubs and stones. At least three people were killed and dozens were injured before army troops backed by tanks dispersed most rioters. The military then declared Beirut's first curfew since 1996.
The Sunni council statement also called on the opposition to end its sit-in in downtown Beirut and "return to the constitutional institutions to assume political duties."
Street protests, it said, "will not produce any results but will only widen divisions." It called on the political leaders to "ameliorate their speeches" in order to avoid a situation that would lead to civil strife. The best way to resolve the current crisis, it said, was to revive the dialogue that was suspended last November.
Local media also reported that Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa will return to Lebanon next week to revive his mediation talks with the rival sides.