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Lebanon: Hariri Calls for Govt. Formation Following Night of Riots

Lebanon: Hariri Calls for Govt. Formation Following Night of Riots

Sunday, 19 January, 2020 - 12:45
Police carry a demonstrator during an operation to open a blocked highway during ongoing anti-government protests in Beirut, Lebanon, on October 26, 2019. (Reuters)

Lebanon's outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri called Sunday on politicians to save time and form a new government. He urged officials to find solutions for the country's economic crisis, after a night of violent clashes between security forces and protesters.


"There is a roadmap to calm the popular storm. Stop wasting time, form a government, open the door to political and economic solutions," Hariri said in a tweet.


Meanwhile, Lebanon's public prosecutor ordered the release of 34 people who were detained Saturday during night clashes, as protesters called for more rallies on Sunday.


Riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets on Saturday to disperse thousands of protesters who rallied outside the parliament and in downtown Beirut. The protesters responded by attacking the security forces with metal bars, stones and tree branches.


Clashes in lasted for almost nine hours with hundreds injured.


Protesters smashed windows and the facade of the headquarters of the country's Banking Association with metal bars, as security forces set fire to a few tents set up by protesters nearby, the Associated Press (AP) reported.


For her part, Interior Minister Raya El Hassan said Saturday that security forces were ordered to protect peaceful protests.


“But for the protests to turn into a blatant attack on the security forces and public and private properties, this is condemned and totally unacceptable," she said in a tweet.


Human Rights Watch described the security force response as “brutal" and called for an urgent end to a “culture of impunity” for police abuse.


“There was no justification for the brutal use of force unleashed by Lebanon’s riot police against largely peaceful demonstrators in downtown Beirut," said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at HRW.


“Riot police showed a blatant disregard for their human rights obligations, instead launching teargas canisters at protesters’ heads, firing rubber bullets in their eyes and attacking people at hospitals and a mosque.”


Meanwhile, Lebanese rescuers treated more than 300 people for injuries on Saturday. It was the highest toll in some of the most intense violence since largely peaceful protests erupted across the country in

October, Reuters reported.


However, according to the Red Cross and the Lebanese Civil Defense the number of those injured reached at least 377, with more than 120 of those treated in hospitals.


Protesters have rallied against the country's political elite who have ruled Lebanon since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.


The protesters blame politicians for widespread corruption and mismanagement in a country that has accumulated one of the largest debt ratios in the world.


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