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Thousands demonstrate and close roads in protest against new PM

Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab was backed by the militant Hezbollah group and its allies.

Protesters chant slogans in Beirut (Bilal Hussein/AP)
Protesters chant slogans in Beirut (Bilal Hussein/AP)

By Bassam Hatoum, Associated Press

Thousands of people took to the streets of central Beirut on Sunday to protest against the country’s new prime minister, saying he should abandon the post because he is a member of the ruling elite.

Protesters closed several roads and highways in Beirut and other parts of Lebanon after sunset to rally against the nomination of Hassan Diab, who was backed by the militant Hezbollah group and its allies and failed to win the backing of the main Sunni Muslim groups.

The protesters, many of whom came from northern Lebanon and the eastern Bekaa Valley, also gathered in Beirut’s central Martyrs Square, one of the key places the protests have been under way for more than two months.

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Protesters gathered after sunset (Bilal Hussein/AP)

They later marched towards the parliament building guarded by scores of riot police.

There was no violence, unlike last week when scuffles were reported between protesters and policemen outside the parliament.

Prime Minister-designate Mr Diab, a university professor and former education minister, will have the task of steering Lebanon out of its worst economic and financial crisis in decades.

He is also taking office against the backdrop of ongoing nationwide protests against the country’s ruling elite who the protesters blame for widespread corruption and mismanagement.

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Protesters take pictures of a defaced poster of newly-nominated Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab (Bilal Hussein/AP)

Former prime minister Saad Hariri, the head of the largest Sunni group in Lebanon, resigned on October 29, meeting a key demand of the protesters. According to Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the prime minister has to be a Sunni.

“We are not convinced by their choice,” protester Hanaa Saleh said about Mr Diab’s nomination.

“We don’t believe this movie.”

Mr Diab has vowed his government will not include politicians and will only consist of independents and experts.

In America, a State Department spokeswoman said US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale had encouraged Lebanese leaders during his two-day visit last week “to put aside partisan interests and support formation of a government committed to and capable of undertaking meaningful, sustained reforms”.

Mr Hale “reaffirmed America’s longstanding partnership and enduring commitment to a secure, stable, and prosperous Lebanon”, Morgan Ortagus said.

PA

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