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UN Spokesman to Asharq Al-Awsat: Lebanese People’s Right to Peaceful Rallies Must Be Respected

UN Spokesman to Asharq Al-Awsat: Lebanese People’s Right to Peaceful Rallies Must Be Respected

Wednesday, 23 October, 2019 - 06:00
An areal view taken shows Lebanese protesters rallying in downtown Beirut, on the fifth day of demonstrations against tax increases and official corruption. (AFP)

United Nations Secretary General spokesman Stephane Dujarric stated that the organization was “closely monitoring” the popular protests in Lebanon.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, he demanded that authorities respect the people’s right to hold peaceful rallies.

He also urged them to deal with unauthorized armed groups that may attack the demonstrators.

The UN is in contact with the Lebanese government and international partners to support efforts to confront the pressing challenges, including the economic situation, he added.

He noted that the anti-government protests, which erupted on Thursday, have been overwhelmingly peaceful, calling on all parties to refrain from acts that could stoke tensions or incite violence.

People anywhere have the right to hold peaceful protests. It is important to respect that right, commented Dujarric. No weapons should be brought to the demonstrations.

Moreover, he said that UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis, is in contact with government officials.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri held meetings on Tuesday with western and Arab ambassadors to explain a reform package announced a day earlier to pacify massive protests calling for his government to resign.

Hariri met ambassadors including from the United States, Russia, China, the European Union and the Arab league, his office said.

Foreign governments backed the Lebanese government's reform targets, Hariri's office cited Kubis as saying on Tuesday.

Hundreds of thousands of people have flooded the streets since Thursday, furious at a political class they accuse of pushing the economy to the point of collapse. Roads were blocked for a seventh day across the country on Wednesday.

Schools and banks were closed on Wednesday.

The protests have been extraordinary because of their size and geographic reach in a country where political movements are normally divided on sectarian lines and struggle to draw nationwide appeal.

Lebanon has one of the world’s highest levels of government debt as a share of economic output. The government includes most major parties, run by politicians widely perceived to have mobilized state resources and influence for their own gain.

The economy has been hit by political paralysis and regional conflicts, compounded by strains in the financial system that have risen as inward capital flows have slowed. Unemployment among the under 35s runs at 37%.

Lebanese have started to feel pressures in the financial system more acutely of late, with dollars becoming harder to obtain at the official exchange rate. The pound, pegged at its current rate for two decades, has been under pressure.

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