Lebanon's PM Saad Hariri resigns amid protests

Photo: EPA Protesters react as they watch the TV speech by PM Saad Hariri, Beirut, 29 October.

In a televised address, Lebanon's PM Saad Hariri announced on Tuesday he would submit his resignation to President Michel Aoun following nearly two weeks of unprecedented anti government protests. "It has become necessary for us to make a great shock to fix the crisis. I am going to the Baabda Palace to give my resignation," Hariri said, calling on all Lebanese to protect civil peace.

The prime minister's announcement came hours after a mob loyal to Shiite groups Hezbollah and Amal attacked and destroyed a camp set up by anti-government demonstrators in central Beirut.

The show of force came after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said last week that roads closed by protesters should be reopened and suggested the demonstrators were financed by foreign enemies.

Security forces did not intervene to stop the assault, in which protesters were hit with sticks and were seen appealing for help as they ran, witnesses said. Tear gas was eventually fired to disperse the crowds. Hariri’s offer to resign is a challenge to the powerful Hezbollah movement. Nasrallah has twice said that he was against such a step, citing the risk of a dangerous void.

The anti-government protests started on 17 October against proposed taxes and later continued against corruption and economic situation. Hariri last week sought to defuse popular anger through a set of reform measures agreed with other groups in his coalition government, including Hezbollah, to tackle corruption and long-delayed economic reforms. But without immediately enacting these steps, they did not satisfy demonstrators, whose demands included the resignation of the coalition government.

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