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Lebanese Protesters Clash with Army over New PM Pick

Lebanese Protesters Clash with Army over New PM Pick

Saturday, 21 December, 2019 - 06:15
Supporters of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Saad Hariri burn tires as they clash with security forces and close a road in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (AP)

Lebanese troops fired tear gas in Beirut on Friday to disperse hundreds of youths who were protesting against the designation of a new prime minister backed by Hezbollah and its allies, witnesses said.

The protesters, mainly Sunni supporters of former PM Saad Hariri, threw rocks and fireworks at the soldiers in clashes in the streets of the capital’s Corniche al-Mazraa district.

Hassan Diab was designated on Thursday but in a sign that sectarian power blocs remain paramount, he was not backed by the main parliamentary bloc of his Sunni community.

Diab, a 60-year-old engineering professor, vowed to form a government made of technocrats that should win "full support from Europe and the US" and open Lebanon up to badly-needed Western aid.

In the northern city of Tripoli, schools were closed and Diab opponents also blockaded roads and called for a general strike.

The unrest early in the day prompted Hariri to call on his supporters to stop the protests, his second such appeal in two days.

Diab on protocol visits to ex-premiers Friday met Hariri and other Sunni political figures who had not endorsed his nomination the previous day.

Following the meetings, Diab reiterated he wanted to form "a government of independent technocrats" and added that "Hariri is giving his full support to the formation of this government".

Diab was to start Saturday consultations with the parliamentary blocs to create his government, but Hariri's party has decided it "will not participate in the next government", according to a close source.

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