JERUSALEM, Israel - Relative calm returned to Lebanon on Wednesday following two days of countrywide protests.
Supporters of ousted Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri took to the streets by the tens of thousands on Tuesday to protest the parliament's choice of Hezbollah-backed billionaire Najib Mikati as the new premier.
Protesters called for a "Day of Rage," with demonstrations that began at midday turning violent and injuries reported in several cities around the country.
Demonstrators clashed with security forces, burning tires and blocking streets to protest Hezbollah's takeover of the government.
Hariri thanked his supporters and called for calm.
"I express my thanks and gratitude to all citizens who took this path and decided to participate and raise their voices regarding the national decision," Hariri said, while rejecting "every aspect of violence and lawlessness."
"You have the right to express your opinion regarding the current crisis, but within the limits of mutual respect," Hariri said. "We are all citizens of this country, and we all want to coexist together and respect each other's viewpoints, without ceding our principles and constants," he said.
Lebanese President Michel Suileman confirmed Mikati's appointment as prime minister-designate following Tuesday's vote and tasked him with forming the new government.
Mikati garnered 68 of the 128-member parliament's votes to Hariri's 60, paving the way for his appointment and evidencing Hezbollah's assent to political power alongside its military prowess, due in large part to Iran and Syria.
Mikati's close ties to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are no secret.
Some analysts believe the prime minister-designate agreed to dismiss the recent indictments - presumed to be senior members of Hezbollah - by the U.N.-backed tribunal for the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
As premier, Sa'ad Hariri refused demands by Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah to reject the tribunal's findings, precipitating the group's decision to bring down the government. Click here to read "A Guide to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon," published by The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the Hezbollah-led government would present a problem for the Obama administration.
"The make-up of Lebanon's government is a Lebanese decision, but this decision should not be reached through coercion, intimidation and threats of violence," Crowley said in a statement.
"Unfortunately, Hezbollah, back by Syria, engaged in all three in pursuit of its political goals," he said.
"The work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is of vital importance to stability, security and justice in Lebanon. It's work will continue," Crowley's statement read.
Israeli Minister of Regional Development Silvan Shalom called Hezbollah's takeover "very dangerous."
"For the first time, a terrorist organization is taking the lead in a country in the Middle East," Shalom said.
"From now on they will control the army and all the security forces," he said.
"That government will be authorized by the Iranian regime and I think that brings instability to the Middle East and the entire world," Shalom said, noting that it's a misnomer to think of Hezbollah as a political party.
"Have you heard of a political party…that has 50,000 missiles and rockets? Have you heard of a political party that launches rockets and missiles toward its neighbors?" he asked.
"They are a terrorist organization that is trying to take the lead in Lebanon by using the democratic system," Shalom said.