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US Official to Asharq Al-Awsat: Protesters’ Demands Are Legitimate

US Official to Asharq Al-Awsat: Protesters’ Demands Are Legitimate

Thursday, 24 October, 2019 - 09:45
Demonstrators carry national flags during an anti-government protest in downtown Beirut, Lebanon October 20, 2019. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho

A senior US official described developments in Lebanon as unprecedented, and in many ways, should have happened before. He underlined that demonstrations were an appropriate reaction to many years of financial mismanagement and rampant corruption.

For decades, governments in Lebanon have refused to take economic reforms and to fight corruption, and basically pushed their country to the brink of financial collapse, the senior official told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He went on to say that the problem in Lebanon was not particularly related to any party, religion or sect.

“Corruption is rampant. We tried to work with the Lebanese government, and we tried to encourage them to take some steps,” he emphasized.

The US senior official noted that more than a year after CEDRE, the government has not taken any practical steps to achieve the approved reforms.

“I don’t want to say that it is a failed government, but this government was not able to rise to the challenge,” he stated.

Asked if he believed that Hezbollah was also responsible for the corruption, the US official said: “Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged in his recent speech that the party itself is also responsible for the current crisis. So far, these demonstrations have generally been non-sectarian and I don’t want to talk about a specific role of Hezbollah.”

He stressed that the Lebanese people were calling for their rights and for a responsible government that would take the necessary steps to end this crisis.

“We hope that the reforms would be implemented now… But I repeat: it could be too late…” He noted.

“It was like a slow train about to collide; and for years we've been seeing this coming,” the American official remarked, underlining the need for “bold decisions” and “innovative solutions” to overcome the current political and economic crisis.

He affirmed the US supported the “legitimate demands” of the protesters, saying: “80% percent of the Lebanese stand side by side, non-sectarian, peacefully demonstrating, which is wonderful.”

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