Lebanon protests: Prime Minister Saad Hariri set on Friday a 72-hour deadline for his political rivals to resolve Lebanon’s dire economic crisis.
The protests, which broke out on Thursday over plans for new taxes, are the most serious challenge to Prime Minister Hariri national unity government, which came to power less than a year ago.
Blaming his political adversaries for obstructing his reforms, Hariri said Lebanon was going through an “unprecedented, difficult time”.
Hariri added: “I’m giving our partners in government a very short deadline 72 hours that can give us a solution that can convince us, the people on the streets and our international partners. Or I will have something else to say.”
As he spoke, in Beirut’s Martyr Square, protesters waving the Lebanese flag continued to call for the resignation of the country’s political elite, including Hariri, President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.
Demonstrators, who are angry over government plans to impose new taxes amid rising costs of living, chanted “Revolution! Revolution!” and “The people demand the fall of the regime”. They also accused the Lebanon’s political leaders of corruption, and called for the country’s strict banking secrecy laws to be lifted and for state funds stolen over the decades to be returned to the treasury.
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“Thief, Thief, Michel Aoun is a thief,” some chanted, looking around nervously with grins on their faces. In Lebanon, insulting the president can land you in jail.
There were reports of clashes late on Friday, as police used tear gas to disperse protesters at the Riad al-Solh square. Saudi Arabia said it was evacuating its citizens from the country.
Lebanon Protests: Protests over taxes threaten Lebanon’s political establishment