The Western-backed opposition is marking six years since Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution," as Hezbollah's military might is once again thrust into the forefront of a deadlock between rival camps.
The opposition led by outgoing premier Saad Hariri has urged its supporters to turn out en masse for a downtown Beirut rally on Sunday to demand the end of "the dictatorship of arms," a reference to the arsenal of the powerful Shiite party.
"Hezbollah's weapons have allowed it to impose its authority in Lebanon, either through the use or mere threat of these arms," MP Ammar Houry of Hariri's bloc told AFP.
"We have reached a point where there is no possibility of coexistence in light of the presence of these weapons."
The anniversary follows a drawn-out political crisis which saw the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah topple Hariri's unity government in January, capping a long-running feud over a U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
The tribunal tasked with investigating the 2005 murder of former premier Rafiq Hariri, father of the outgoing prime minister, is reportedly readying to implicate members of Hezbollah in the killing.
Sunni Muslim billionaire Najib Mikati, appointed with Hezbollah's backing, has been tapped to succeed Saad Hariri and has since January 25 sought to form a government.
Hariri's camp is hoping for a show of force on Sunday, six years to the day after a massive Beirut protest which the alliance said was the proto-type for "peaceful, democratic" change in the Arab world.
A media war between the Saudi- and Western-backed Saad Hariri and Hezbollah has reached a new high with each camp vying to discredit the other.
Local television channel Future News, which is owned by the Hariri family, has repeatedly aired a short video in which a Hezbollah member climbs a pole, takes down a Lebanese flag and replaces it with the party's yellow standard.
Another clip shows gunmen opening fire on Lebanese troops with the tagline: "We want no army in Lebanon but the Lebanese army." A third follows a family as it crouches in terror, hiding from an armed clash in their neighborhood.
Red billboards urging supporters of the Hariri camp to head downtown on Sunday also line highways across the capital, bearing slogans such as "NO to assassinations," "NO to oppression" and "NO to the rule of arms."
Hezbollah's Al-Manar television has for its part accused Hariri's Future Movement of "lies and corruption."
"'Lie... lie... lie until the people believes' was the saying of German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels in Hitler's Nazi government," a newscaster on Al-Manar said. "The Future (Movement) party has best employed that tactic."
Hariri last month announced his camp would not be joining the next government amid "the presence of weapons."
His camp accuses Hezbollah, the only party not to have turned in its arms after the 1975-1990 civil war, of having used its arsenal to intimidate MPs into voting against Hariri's re-appointment after his unity cabinet collapsed.
MP Ali Hassan Khalil of another Shiite movement, Amal, a staunch ally of Hezbollah, on Thursday told AFP that Hariri's harsh tone in his latest speeches reflected his "lust for power."
"During his term in power, Hariri always said the weapons of the resistance (Hezbollah) were off-limits," Khalil said. "His stance today is a reaction to his loss of power."
Houry, however, said Hariri's alliance had "temporarily coexisted" with Hezbollah's arms in order to see the Special Tribunal through.
"We made sacrifices because we feared for the stability of our country," he added. "But today we have reached the limit -- sacrifices are no longer possible."
Saad Hariri rose to premiership in the wake of his father's murder, which sparked a massive rally on March 14, 2005 to demand the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.
Today, as the country braces for the Special Tribunal's indictment, the political tug-of-war over Hezbollah's arms could lead to yet another crisis, experts warn.
"It would have been wiser had the battle over these arms been launched at the negotiating table and not on the streets," said Fadia Kiwan, head of political sciences at Saint Joseph University.
"The escalation of political discourse in Lebanon today only serves to incite hatred and could possibly lead to a deterioration in security," Kiwan said.
"And if the tribunal's chargesheet is released in the midst of an atmosphere of hatred and hostility, that would be tantamount to lighting the match."
US on arming Lebanon
Meanwhile, the United States should maintain military aid to the Lebanese army even if the government becomes controlled by Hezbollah militants, U.S. intelligence chief James Clapper said Thursday.
"I would think that to the extent that we can sustain influence and insight and help counterbalance the Hezbollah military wing, that it would be a good idea," Clapper, the director of national intelligence, told U.S. lawmakers.
But he said it would be up to policymakers to take such a decision.
In late January, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned against Hezbollah -- designated by the U.S. as a terrorist group -- coming to power, saying it would clearly impact the ties between Lebanon and the United States.
Washington is above all concerned whether the Lebanese army will be able to control Hezbollah, which has backed Mikati as prime minister and was appointed on January 25 to form a new government.
"The concern has been continually for not only ourselves, but for some of our allies, is in terms of the (Lebanese Army) and its ability in the southern part of the country to exert the control over other factions that are in there, such as Lebanese Hezbollah," said Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
"So what this means to the future of that is something that we are following very closely at this time."
Washington has given Lebanon more than 700 million dollars in aid to help train and equip the army since a devastating war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006.