BEIRUT, Lebanon – About 1,000 students marched on the U.S. Embassy Tuesday, attacking Washington's interference in Lebanon as a newspaper owned by the slain former premier Rafik Hariri (search) reported that a U.N. report into his assassination is expected to accuse Lebanese authorities of negligence and evidence tampering.
It was the second anti-U.S. protest organized by pro-government student groups in eight days to denounce what one demonstrator called "blatant U.S. interference" in Lebanon.
Waving Lebanese flags and shouting "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" the demonstrators, mostly supporters of the militant Hezbollah (search) group, tried to push through barbed wire and a Lebanese army checkpoint.
They didn't get too close to the fortified compound in the northeaster suburb of Aukar— Lebanese soldiers, riot police and barbed wire stopped them about half a mile away.
The protesters called for the U.S. ambassador's expulsion and tore a portrait of President Bush, who has repeatedly called on Syria to remove its troops and intelligence agents from Lebanon.
Referring to a U.N. resolution in September calling on Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon and stop interfering in Lebanon's domestic politics, a speaker said, "Resolution 1559 (search) was made in Israel. We will reject it," drawing cheers from the crowd.
Speakers voiced support for Hezbollah's resistance against Israel, saying they rejected disarmanent of the guerrilla group as called for in the U.N. resolution.
Hariri was killed on Feb. 14 in a massive explosion on a seafront central Beirut street that devastated his motorcade and killed 17 others. A U.N. team dispatched to look into the attack completed its mission in Beirut on March 16.
In the three weeks of investigating, Deputy Police Commissioner Peter Fitzgerald of Ireland inspected the bomb site and met Lebanese politicians, senior security and judicial officials, as well as members of the opposition.
It is due to release its confidential report later this week, but leaks about its purported contents have emerged in recent days.
Hariri's Al-Mustaqbal newspaper quoted various unnamed sources on Tuesday saying the U.N. team noted "a clear flaw in the scene of the crime where there was abnormal chaos and lack of coordination among security apparatuses."
It pointed to the discovery of three bodies days after the explosion as evidence of the confusion that surrounded the cleanup operation.
The paper also says the fact-finding team found Lebanese security authorities had "tampered with evidence by rushing to tow away Hariri's motorcade from the scene of the crime" to a police barracks, "then sending on the same night a bulldozer to fill the [explosion's] crater and cleaning the road in order to open it to traffic."
The government has said it was holding its own investigation into the explosion and has not made any official statements.
Walid Jumblatt (search), a leading member of the anti-Syrian opposition demanding an international inquiry and the dismissal of Lebanon's pro-Syrian security chiefs, hinted on Sunday that the U.N. report did not have "good news to some of the joint [Lebanese-Syrian security] apparatuses."
Meanwhile, members of Hariri's parliamentary bloc appealed to Arab leaders meeting in Algeria Tuesday to demand an international inquiry into the assassination, saying this represented "a serious gateway to uncover the truth and deal with the crisis caused by this crime."
Although Syria and its Lebanese allies in government denied any role in Hariri's assassination as claimed by the opposition, the killing brought Syria's long domination of Lebanon into the spotlight.
Syria's military, which entered the country in 1976 during the 1975-90 civil war, made Damascus the power broker of Lebanese politics.
Hariri's assassination sparked unprecedented anti-Syrian protests that sunk Prime Minister Omar Karami's government and induced international pressure on Syria to completely withdraw its army from Lebanon. Damascus withdrew troops to eastern Lebanon earlier this month and has promised a total pullback.
Karami was reappointed to the premiership March 10 by staunchly pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud (search), but the process of forming a Cabinet has since been deadlocked.
On Monday, the anti-Syrian opposition softened its tone and urged Karami to form a new government to ensure parliamentary elections are held before parliament's current mandate expires May 31.
Sheik Hassan Nasrallah (search), leader of the militant Hezbollah which backs the government, urged on Tuesday dialogue between the pro- and anti-Syrian groups and appealed for elections to proceed on time.
Syria's foreign minister said Monday Damascus was implementing the U.N. Security Council resolution calling for the withdrawal and that Washington should end its threats against his government.
"After this, how is it possible to attack Syria? To continue the threats and for the American administration to hint at that?" Farouk al-Sharaa (search) told Lebanon's LBC television.
The United States has not said it plans to attack Syria, but it has repeatedly stated that Syria do more to withdraw its troops from Lebanon sooner and to stop insurgents using the Syrian border to infiltrate Iraq and launch attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces.
"We fear nothing, but we don't wish for this military intervention. Our cause is just and we call for dialogue with the American administration," al-Sharaa said.