Richard North, 05/02/2006  

How nice it is of those lovely people in the Levant to honour that quaint Sunday ritual that is becoming something of a tradition in this, our own green and pleasant land.

Thus it is that the Telegraph website and others tell us that these people – whose rest day in on a Friday – have kindly given up a working day to provide us with such a splendid example of tolerance and goodwill.

No doubt attracted by the prospect of the distribution of some high quality pork products (or "white beef" as they call it in the restaurants) strollers gathered in the vicinity of the Danish embassy in Beirut, burning Danish flags as is their own tradition, and chanting: "There is no god but God and Mohammad is the messenger of God!"

Some brought their own reading material, in anticipation of the afternoon lull and many brought their own tablecloths, some in a brilliant, verdant green, although the newly fashionable black also seems to be making a comeback. Such was the enthusiam of the crowd that some even fastened them to sticks, creating a festive tableau of improvised flags.

Police, taking a cue from their Syrian colleagues, provided free doses of tear gas and a cooling spray from their water cannons. They also fired their weapons into the air as part of the celebrations. Unfortunately, it seems, enthusiasm got the better of the crowd and the Bar-B-Qs got slightly out of hand with the result that the embassy accidentally burnt to the ground.

Tragically at least 18 people were injured, including policemen and fire fighters, with witnesses reporting at least 10 people taken away by ambulance. This invoked a few minor protests, but one of the crowd quickly made amends by carrying out cosmetic alterations to a police car. Conveniently, he just happened to have brought his work tools with him to the festivities.

Some 2,000 army troops and riot police have now been deployed to help sightseers with directions and the Danish Foreign Ministry has urged its countrymen to rush back to Denmark to spread the good tidings on how well their efforts have been received in this peace-loving land, not least the sterling work of their renowned cartoonists, who are now acquiring a world-wide reputation for their penetrating wit.


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