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Hezbollah leader calls for anti-Islam film protests in Lebanon

Thousands in Beirut, Lebanon protested the controversial anti-Islam film that has spurred protests. NBC's Claudio Lavagna reports. 

Updated at 6:30 p.m. ET: The head of Lebanon's Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah on Sunday called for nationwide protests over a film about the Prophet Muhammad, saying that the United States must be held accountable for creating strife between Muslims and Christians.

The call came as Western embassies across the Muslim world remained on high alert Sunday as protests continued from London to Lahore. Violence left one dead in Pakistan.

"We call for protests tomorrow in the southern suburbs (of Beirut) at 5 o'clock," Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech. "Muslims and Christians must remain vigilant in order to refrain from sliding towards strife. Those responsible for the film, starting with the U.S., must be held accountable."


Stringer / Reuters

Lebanese Islamists wave Syrian Opposition flags Sunday to express solidarity with Syria's anti-government protesters as they burn an Israeli and a U.S. flag to protest against a film they consider blasphemous to Islam and insulting to the Prophet Muhammad, in Tripoli, northern Lebanon.

"All these developments are being orchestrated by U.S. intelligence," he said, adding that the U.S. government was using the excuse of freedom of speech in order to justify the continued broadcast of the film.

Nasrallah also called for demonstrations around Lebanon, including the southern coastal town of Tyre on Wednesday and the northern town of Hermel on Sunday.

The video, circulating on the Internet under several titles including "Innocence of Muslims", portrays Mohammad as a womanizer and a fool. In one clip posted on YouTube, Mohammad was shown in a sexual act with a woman.

Many Muslims consider any depiction of the prophet as offensive and fury about the film tore across the Middle East this week, with protesters attacking U.S. embassies and burning American flags.

Fareed Khan / AP

Pakistani protesters hurl back tear gas fired by police, unseen, to stop them from walking toward the U.S. consulate during a demonstration in Karachi, Pakistan, Sunday.

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The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans were killed in Benghazi, Libya, last Tuesday. At least nine people were killed in protests in several countries on Friday, but protests subsided over the weekend.

Pope tells Christians in Beirut: 'Be peacemakers'

Nasrallah's speech came a few hours after Pope Benedict left Lebanon for the Vatican, ending a three-day tour in which he urged Arab leaders to serve justice and peace.

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Nasrallah, head of the strongest armed force in the country, said in a statement last week that he supported the visit.

Western diplomatic missions were on edge Sunday. Germany followed the U.S. lead and withdrew some staff from its Sudan embassy, which was stormed on Friday.

Around 350 people chanted slogans at a rally outside the U.S. Embassy in London; a small group of protesters burned a U.S. flag outside the U.S. Embassy in the Turkish capital, and in Pakistan there were small protests in more than a dozen cities.

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One person was killed when unidentified people opened fire at a protest in the southern city of Hyderabad, police said.

Fareed Khan / AP

A Pakistani protester holds a stone as others hang a flag at the entry of the gate of the U.S. Consulate during a demonstration in Karachi, Pakistan, Sunday.

One person was killed and dozens of people when anti-American protesters tried to storm the American Consulate in the southern port city of Karachi and clashed for several hours with the police and paramilitary troops on Sunday evening, rescue workers and police officials said, The New York Times reported.

Pakistani officials had increased security in all major cities before Friday Prayer services and until Sunday, calm had prevailed. The American Embassy here said in a message posted Sunday evening on Twitter that “all American personnel are safe and accounted for at U.S. Consulate, Karachi.”

The United States has deployed a significant force in the Middle East to deal with any contingencies and rapid deployment teams were ready to respond to incidents, he said.

The foreign minister of Egypt, where hundreds of people were arrested in four days of clashes, assured Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that U.S. diplomatic grounds would be protected.