Lebanon’s Aoun be­gins talks to re­place de­part­ing PM Hariri

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Pres­i­dent Michel Aoun said he was try­ing to or­gan­ise talks to se­lect a new prime min­is­ter, and would hold con­sul­ta­tions when ready.

On Thurs­day evening, Mr Aoun was set to ad­dress the na­tion for the first time since Saad Hariri an­nounced that he was re­sign­ing as prime min­is­ter this week, col­laps­ing the govern­ment.

Hezbol­lah’s par­lia­men­tary bloc, in its first com­ment on

Mr Hariri’s move, crit­i­cised it as wast­ing time that was vi­tal to pass anti-cor­rup­tion mea­sures and eco­nomic re­forms.

Hezbol­lah leader Has­san Nas­ral­lah last week said that he was against any reshuf­fle or change in the lead­er­ship.

As the streets of Lebanon started to clear on Wed­nes­day and the coun­try looked set to re­turn to nor­mal with schools and banks reopening af­ter two weeks of protests, thou­sands re­turned to the streets spark­ing clashes with the army.

A mass march was held from the Cen­tral Bank in Hamra to Riad Al Solh out­side the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice in Beirut.

Peo­ple car­ried ban­ners read­ing, “Re­turn the stolen money”, and the crowd chanted, “We want to top­ple the bank, we want to top­ple the regime”.

Many of those who have been ac­tive through­out the demon­stra­tions also re­turned, block­ing the ring road that con­nects east and west Beirut just hours af­ter they agreed to clear the im­por­tant junc­tion.

North of Beirut, peo­ple re­turned to the Jal El Dib mo­tor­way that had been cleared by the army ear­lier in the day on Wed­nes­day. In Si­don and Tripoli and dozens of other ar­eas, thou­sands also took to the main squares and streets to close junc­tions.

The army strug­gled to re­open roads. They used tear gas in Akkar’s Ab­deh in north Lebanon to try to push peo­ple back. But on Thurs­day, hun­dreds re­turned to the streets of the town to block the roads.

On the ring road that con­nects east and west Beirut, po­lice and the army force­fully re­moved pro­test­ers and about 100 riot of­fi­cers re­mained on the scene to pre­vent pro­test­ers re­turn­ing. In Jal El Dib, of­fi­cers ne­go­ti­ated with pro­test­ers to clear the street.

The Le­banese Amer­i­can Univer­sity late on Wed­nes­day re­versed an an­nounce­ment just hours be­fore that they would restart classes on Thurs­day,

heed­ing a call from the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry to re­open schools and col­leges. The min­istry too re­vised its or­der to re­open schools, say­ing it would be con­tin­gent on the lo­cal sit­u­a­tion.

Sup­port­ers of the care­taker prime min­is­ter took to the streets in large moped con­voys, honk­ing their horns and join­ing in the now fa­mous chant “kilon yani kilon” – ev­ery­one means ev­ery­one.

Up un­til re­cently, pro­test­ers al­most ex­clu­sively waved Le­banese flags – po­lit­i­cal slo­gans, ban­ners and posters were hardly seen.

But on Wed­nes­day night, the white sun on a blue back­ground of Mr Hariri’s Fu­ture Move­ment was fly­ing on the streets of Beirut.

Mr Hariri urged his sup­port­ers to co-op­er­ate with se­cu­rity forces af­ter thou­sands took to the streets, an­gered that he was the only politi­cian to re­sign af­ter the 14-day na­tion­wide ral­lies.

The new de­vel­op­ment adds a wor­ry­ing sec­tar­ian di­men­sion to the mass ral­lies.

Many of Mr Hariri’s largely Sunni sup­port­ers are an­gered that the Chris­tian pres­i­dent and Shi­ite speaker of Par­lia­ment are not also re­sign­ing.

Hezbol­lah, the largely Shi­ite Iran-backed para­mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal force, is staunchly op­posed to the care­taker prime min­is­ter’s de­ci­sion to stand down.

Le­banese Forces leader Samir Geagea, who with­drew

Sup­port­ers of Mr Hariri took to the streets, an­gry he was the only politi­cian to re­sign af­ter the na­tion­wide ral­lies

his four min­is­ters from the govern­ment on the third day of the protests that be­gan on Oc­to­ber 17, said that the res­ig­na­tion of the govern­ment wasn’t the end re­sult but the first step to­wards cor­rect­ing the coun­try’s course.

“The only step ca­pa­ble of cor­rect­ing this path at the mo­ment is to form a govern­ment com­pletely dif­fer­ent from its pre­de­ces­sors, with­out the prob­lems of the ex­ist­ing par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity but in­clud­ing new, in­de­pen­dent faces,” he said.

Pres­i­dent Michel Aoun ac­cepted Saad Hariri’s res­ig­na­tion on Wed­nes­day

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