May 13, 2008 / 4:27 PM / 11 years ago

Pro-govt Lebanon TV station resumes broadcasting

(Updates with resumption of broadcasting, details, quotes)

By Yara Bayoumy

BEIRUT, May 13 (Reuters) - The pro-government Future TV station, forced off the air by opposition gunmen last week, resumed broadcasting on Tuesday with footage of violence from Beirut and a fiery speech by its owner Saad al-Hariri.

After an initial technical glitch in which no sound was heard for a few minutes after 1330 GMT, the backdrop of a Lebanese flag was shown and a news broadcaster said:

"They wanted us without a voice and now we come back loudly ... we said we would come back and we did."

Lebanon has a variety of TV stations allied to rival domestic political factions. Future TV is viewed as the mouthpiece of the fragile U.S.-backed government that has lost much of its credibility in its 18 months of conflict with Hezbollah.

A building housing some of the station’s studios was set on fire by pro-Syrian gunmen during Hezbollah’s rapid takeover of the Muslim half of Beirut last week before they later handed positions over to the army.

Hezbollah, backed by Syria and Iran, and its opposition allies have routed loyalists of the Sunni-led government in Beirut and hills to the east in fighting that has pushed Lebanon to the edge of civil war.

Future TV and its sister news channel went back on air from alternative studios based in the Christian Sin el-Fil neighbourhood in time for a scheduled news conference by its owner, Sunni magnate Hariri, the parliamentary majority leader who heads the pro-government Future movement.

"They simply are demanding that we surrender, they want Beirut to raise white flags ... This is impossible," a defiant Hariri told the news conference.

Station chief Nadim Munla earlier said the station had received threats since the violence erupted if it continued broadcasting.

"The slogan that was raised last week was weapons, we today ... say the pen is mightier than the sword," he said.

At least 81 people have been killed in the violence which erupted after Prime Minister Fouad Siniora outlawed Hezbollah’s communication network and fired Beirut’s airport security chief, who is close to the Shi’ite group — a move Hezbollah saw as a declaration of war.

Future’s newspaper, also off newsstands since last week on Hezbollah’s orders, will resume publication on Wednesday.

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