CLASHES BREAK OUT AS LE­BANESE ARMY CLEARS MO­TOR­WAY

▶ Care­taker for­eign min­is­ter Ge­bran Bas­sil is be­lieved to be the stick­ing point in plans to form new gov­ern­ment

The National - News - - NEWS -

The Le­banese army de­tained sev­eral peo­ple af­ter scuf­fles broke out dur­ing at­tempts to clear a mo­tor­way of pro­test­ers on the 20th day of na­tion­wide demon­stra­tions.

The army sur­rounded and then forcibly moved peo­ple sit­ting in the mid­dle of the Zouk Mos­beh mo­tor­way, north of Beirut.

The vi­o­lence came af­ter two el­derly men were found ly­ing on the ground.

Pro­test­ers said the men had been pushed over by a sol­dier.

The demon­stra­tors shoved the se­cu­rity forces in re­sponse and sev­eral peo­ple block­ing the mo­tor­way later told lo­cal me­dia that they had been beaten by the mil­i­tary.

The Le­banese Red Cross said an am­bu­lance had taken one of the men to a med­i­cal cen­tre and he was in sta­ble con­di­tion. The sec­ond man was also ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal.

Hu­man rights ac­tivist Wadih Al As­mar said dozens of peo­ple were ar­rested.

The army tried to clear sev­eral roads that were blocked by pro­test­ers, who have called for the res­ig­na­tion of the coun­try’s lead­ers for about three weeks now.

Af­ter decades of cor­rup­tion, poor gov­ern­ment and poor ser­vice pro­vi­sion, pro­test­ers de­manded a new gov­ern­ment that will work to avert a ma­jor loom­ing fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

While Prime Min­is­ter Saad Hariri an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion last week, forc­ing his gov­ern­ment to col­lapse, the de­lib­er­a­tions to elect a new head of gov­ern­ment have yet to be­gin.

De­spite pro­test­ers’ calls for a non-po­lit­i­cal tech­no­cratic ad­min­is­tra­tion, politi­cians are float­ing the idea of se­lect­ing qual­i­fied spe­cial­ists who rep­re­sent the var­i­ous fac­tions.

This will al­low them to main­tain con­trol while al­low­ing the ex­perts to try to solve the coun­try’s many crises.

Pres­i­dent Michel Aoun, how­ever, said he would not start de­lib­er­a­tions un­til stum­bling blocks, which have yet to be dis­closed, have been over­come.

Sources sug­gested that one ma­jor ob­sta­cle was the op­po­si­tion by many par­ties to care­taker For­eign Min­is­ter Ge­bran Bas­sil, the pres­i­dent’s son-in­law, re­tain­ing a seat.

Mr Bas­sil has been a fo­cal point of na­tional anger.

Mr Hariri and Mr Bas­sil met for four hours on Mon­day as the care­taker prime min­is­ter and the most likely next prime min­is­ter tried to re­solve the is­sue.

Sources said Mr Bas­sil de­manded that he be al­lowed to name all the Chris­tian min­is­ters, a move that would shut out the Le­banese Forces and oth­ers, if he is not in the next gov­ern­ment.

Also on Tues­day, Speaker of Par­lia­ment, Nabih Berri, an­nounced that there would be a par­lia­men­tary ses­sion on Novem­ber 12 to en­able vot­ing on is­sues such as cor­rup­tion and pen­sions.

He also said other mo­tions would be tabled to meet pro­test­ers’ de­mands in due course. The house ses­sion has been de­layed four times so far.

“Start­ing to­mor­row [Wed­nes­day], I will re­fer a num­ber of laws to the joint com­mit­tees to quickly de­cide on them. Deputy Speaker Elie Fer­zli will head three ses­sions a day to fin­ish them,” said Mr Berri, Le­banon’s Daily Star news­pa­per re­ported.

Protests con­tin­ued in the south­ern city of Sidon, with a rally out­side the lo­cal of­fice of the central bank, as well as in Tripoli in the north, where pro­test­ers forced the wa­ter author­ity’s of­fices to close.

On the road to the Le­banese Amer­i­can Univer­sity in By­b­los, a num­ber of stu­dents who sup­port the Free Pa­tri­otic Move­ment, the party founded by the pres­i­dent and now run by Mr Bas­sil, tried to re­move other stu­dents who were block­ing the road. The party said that it was a spon­ta­neous move on the part of the stu­dents and not on their or­ders.

In the Bekaa Val­ley, the Zgharta Serail was blocked by sit-ins, halt­ing much of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s work.

Among the many eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal is­sues the coun­try is fac­ing is a short­age of Amer­i­can dol­lars.

Care­taker Tele­coms Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Chou­cair said yes­ter­day that mo­bile-phone topup cards, all priced in dol­lars, would now be sold to dis­trib­u­tors in Le­banese pounds at the of­fi­cial ex­change rate and that con­sumer prices would be fixed at of­fi­cial rates.

Mr Chou­cair also said that any­one found in­creas­ing prices would be pros­e­cuted.

Mr Bas­sil has re­port­edly de­manded the right to name all Chris­tian min­is­ters if he is not in the next gov­ern­ment, but this would shut out other Chris­tian par­ties

AP / AFP

Clock­wise, from left, a protester takes part in a sit-in to block a bridge in Beirut; demon­stra­tors said that they had been beaten by sol­diers yes­ter­day on Zouk Mos­beh mo­tor­way, north of Beirut; graf­fiti on top of the Dome City Cen­tre known as ‘The Egg’, in the capital as protests en­tered their 20th day yes­ter­day

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