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3 Reported Killed in Anti-Government Protest in Beirut - 2004-05-27

Lebanese Army troops and riot police have fired on a crowd of stone-throwing demonstrators in a suburb of Beirut. Lebanese television stations are reporting three people were killed and a dozen were wounded.

The demonstration was part of a nationwide general strike to protest rising gasoline prices. Lebanese security forces opened fire after the crowd of mostly unemployed young men began throwing rocks at the soldiers manning barricades in one of Beirut's southern suburbs.

Angry demonstrators set fire to tires, sending clouds of black smoke into the air. After the incident, hundreds of stone chunks littered the streets of Beirut's Hay As Soloum district.

Beirut's Al Manar television station showed images of wounded demonstrators being carried away by other protesters.

The crowds of young protesters called for Lebanon Prime Minister Rafiq al Hariri to resign. Prime Minister Hariri was reported to be visiting Damascus.

A member of parliament with ties to Lebanon's Hezbollah guerilla group, Hussein Hajj al Hassan, called for calm.

Mr. Hassan accused security forces of firing on the demonstrators without justification, and he said those responsible should be punished.

Mr. Hassan added that there were negotiations going on with Lebanese Army officials for the withdrawal of the troops from Beirut's southern suburbs, which are largely Shiite, and are considered Hezbollah strongholds.