Dec. 29 - Security forces prepare the streets in downtown Beirut for the huge numbers of people expected for the funeral of former Lebanese minister Mohamad Chatah, who was killed by a bomb on Friday. Rough Cut. (No Reporter Narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION). STORY: Security preparations for the mass funeral of former Lebanese Minister Mohamad Chatah began in Beirut on Sunday (December 29) morning, with thousands expected to take to the streets of the Lebanese capital. Armoured vehicles were seen setting up roadblocks in the streets of the city, while police were seen preparing fences and barbed wire to channel the huge numbers expected to turn out for the funeral. Chatah and four other people were killed in a massive bomb blast that targeted his car in Beirut on Friday (December 27). Speaking ahead of the funeral, his uncle told Reuters Television that there was only one way to characterise what had happened. "It is a great sadness for us and all the country, with its different parties, because it lost a great man; a man of moderation; a man of the right word at the right time, and the solutions that are useful for the country," he said. "What can we do? This is our destiny, to pay the price. It is always good people who pay the price. May it be good for this country and protect it," he added. Chatah, 62, a Sunni Muslim who opposed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was also a critic of Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah movement and an adviser to former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri. His killing occurred three weeks before the long-delayed opening of a trial of five Hezbollah suspects indicted for the Feb. 2005 bombing which killed former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, Saad's father, and 21 other people. Hezbollah has denied involvement in the 2005 attack. Preliminary U.N. investigations implicated Syrian officials. Sources at the explosion site said Chatah was on his way to attend a meeting at Hariri's headquarters when the explosion tore through his car. Hariri himself has stayed away from Lebanon for more than two years, fearing for his safety. A Lebanon-based al Qaeda-linked group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, claimed responsibility and threatened further attacks unless Iran withdraws forces from Syria, where they have backed Assad's 2-1/2-year-old war against rebels. The conflict in neighbouring Syria has polarised Lebanon and ratcheted up sectarian tensions. Hezbollah has sent fighters to Syria to fight alongside Assad, who comes from the Alawite sect, a heterodox offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.