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“I was convinced that through this mission, I am protecting my country, my people and especially fellow members of my sect,” he said.

The prime minister of Lebanon is usually a Sunni, according to a sectarian division of top posts in the state. Traditionally, Lebanon’s president is Maronite Christian, and the speaker of parliament is Shiite.

Over the past year, pro-Syrian Hezbollah and its allies have come to dominate the government.

On Sunday night, a group of anti-Syrian protesters started an open-ended sit-in outside Mr. Mikati’s house in his hometown of Tripoli. The protesters said they will only end the sit-in when Mr. Mikati resigns.

The ambassadors of Britain, the United States, Russia, China and France and the U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon met with President Michel Suleiman to express support for him.

“The permanent members at the United Nations call upon all the parties in Lebanon to preserve stability,” Derek Plumbly, the U.N. representative. “We strongly condemn any attempt to shake Lebanon’s stability.”

Early Monday, an Associated Press photographer saw dozens of gunmen roaming the streets in Beirut’s predominantly Sunni Tariq Jadideh neighborhood, where fighting has taken place. Local Sunni leaders were trying to persuade the gunmen to go home.

In some roads around Tariq Jadideh, masked Sunni gunmen set up checkpoints, stopping cars and asking people about their destination and where they were coming from.

A woman who lives in the neighborhood said the fighting began shortly after midnight and lasted until sunrise.

“We couldn’t sleep because of the shooting. There were also some booms,” she said, referring to rocket-propelled grenades. She asked that her name not be used for fear of reprisals.