*Note: I've abandoned my original idea of a "news round-up" because there simply is too much back news to be covered and I don't have the time at the moment in the midst of finals and papers.
For this report on National Opposition consultations, see:
The political crisis began after Siniora [left] and his allies rejected demands by Hizbu'llah, AMAL, and Aoun to give them a third of the cabinet seats plus one extra which resulted in the resignation of six Shi'i and one Christian minister in protest. Lebanese President Emile Lahoud has called the Siniora government illigitimate since it does not represent all of Lebanon's sectarian groups as the 1958 constitution requires. The constitution also states that 50% of parliament must be controlled by Christians despite the fact that they make up less than 40% of the country's population currently. An official census has not been taken since 1932 for political reasons but population growth figures have allowed for rough estimates of Lebanon's sectarian divisions.
Thousands of protestors have remained camped out in and around downtown Beirut's Riad al-Solh Square since the protest rally last Friday. One protestor, 20-year-old 'Ali Ahmad Mahmoud, a supporter of the largely secular Shi'i AMAL party led by the speaker of the parliament, Nabih Berri, was killed in clashes on Sunday with Sunni supporters of Saad Hariri's Future movement, after the later confronted AMAL and Hizbu'llah supporters walking through their neighborhood and shots were fired by still unknown parties. Future movement members have blamed Syrian agitators for the violence but reports on al-Manar, Hizbu'llah's television station, recently broadcast video of what are alleged to be Future movement supporters opening fire on National Opposition supporters returning from a rally.
For this report on the fight that resulted in 'Ali Ahmad Mahmoud's death, see:
Mahmoud was buried on Tuesday amongst throngs of Shi'i National Opposition supporters. "We present the martyr as a sacrifice for Lebanon`s national unity," said Shaykh 'Abd al-Amir Qabalan, interim head of the Higher Shi'i Council. "It is forbidden for Shiites to kill Sunnis, for Sunnis to kill Shiites, for Christians to kill Muslims and vice-versa."
Despite claims by Siniora that his coalition represents the majority of Lebanese, according to recent data, the Shi'a make up roughly 40-50% of the country's population and the vast majority of them are supporters of either Hizbu'llah or AMAL. Sunnis (20-25%) tend to support either Siniora or Saad Hariri's Future movement while the Druze (5%) almost unanimously support Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist Party.