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Lebanese talks on new PM postponed after violent clashes

The violence was the toughest crackdown so far on anti-government demonstrations that have paralysed Lebanon since mid-October.

Anti-government protesters remove the fences dividing them from riot police (AP/Hussein Malla)
Anti-government protesters remove the fences dividing them from riot police (AP/Hussein Malla)

By Bassem Mroue, Associated Press

Lebanon’s president has postponed talks on naming a new prime minister after a weekend of violent clashes.

The violence was the toughest crackdown so far on anti-government demonstrations that have paralysed Lebanon since mid-October.

Security forces fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons for two straight days over the weekend to disperse hundreds of protesters.

The presidential palace said the consultations, which had been planned for Monday would take place on Thursday instead, following a special request from outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Mr Hariri resigned in late October, after the protests first broke out earlier that month over widespread corruption and mismanagement. The palace said Mr Hariri asked President Michel Aoun to give time for more discussions among political groups before official consultations take place.

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Demonstrators during a protest near the parliament square in Beirut (AP/Hussein Malla)

The weekend violence erupted after it became evident that Mr Hariri would probably be renamed to the post – something the protesters reject, saying they want a cabinet made up of independent technocrats and an independent head of government not affiliated with existing parties.

On Sunday, someone set fire to two tents set up by protesters in Martyrs’ Square in Beirut, which has become the epicentre for the anti-government gatherings. After hours of clashes, the army deployed around central Beirut, putting an end to the pitched street battles.

The Lebanese Civil Defence said it transferred 20 injured to hospitals while it treated over 70 protesters on site.

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An anti-government protester stands on a traffic light (AP/Hussein Malla)

Earlier, confrontations overnight between Saturday and Sunday left more than 130 people injured in Beirut, according to the Red Cross and the Lebanese Civil Defence. The Red Cross said none of the injured were in serious condition and most of them were treated on the spot.

Although the protests had united all Lebanese sectarian and ethnic groups against the ruling elites, tensions have lately surfaced between protesters and supporters of the Shiite groups Hezbollah and Amal, after the later rejected criticism of their leaders.

PA

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