News ID: 260750
Published: 0357 GMT October 25, 2019

Hezbollah leader: Protests could push Lebanon into chaos, collapse

Hezbollah leader: Protests could push Lebanon into chaos, collapse

Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned on Friday that nationwide protests could push the country into chaos, collapse and, “God forbid”, civil war.

Nasrallah rejected the demonstrators’ calls to bring down the government. The country endured a catastrophic civil war between 1975 and 1990, Reuters reported.

“We do not accept the fall of the presidency nor do we accept the government’s resignation and we do not accept, amid these conditions, holding early parliamentary elections,” Nasrallah said.

Praising the protest movement for achieving “unprecedented” economic reforms announced this week, he said Lebanon must now search for ways to move forward and prevent a dangerous power vacuum.

For a ninth day on Friday, Lebanon saw protests that have cut roads, closed schools and shut banks nationwide.

Emergency reform measures and an offer of dialogue with protest representatives by the president have so far failed to defuse anger or persuade people to leave the streets.

The protests have been fueled by dire economic conditions and anger at the political elite accused of mismanagement of funds and plundering state resources for personal gain.

Credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s said the government’s limited ability to address the demonstrators’ demands could harm confidence in the banks and have an adverse effect on foreign exchange reserves.

Hundreds of Lebanese protesters set up tents, blocking traffic in main thoroughfares and sleeping in public squares on Friday to enforce a civil disobedience campaign and keep up the pressure on the government to step down.

Banks, universities and schools remained closed on the ninth day of nationwide protests, triggered by new proposed taxes that followed public spending cuts.

Despite government promises of reforms, the leaderless protesters have dug in, saying the country's incumbent officials are corrupt and must go.

"We will accept nothing less than the resignation of the government, the president, dissolving the parliament and holding early parliamentarian elections," said Mohammad Mazloum, an engineer who has been protesting since the protests began on October 17.

The unprecedented mass protests come amid a deepening economic crisis in Lebanon. They have united Lebanese against the country's sectarian-based leaders, who have ruled since the end of Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war.

Lebanon is one of the world's most indebted nations, with public debt over 150 percent of the gross domestic product. The protesters accuse the politicians of amassing wealth even as the country gets poorer.

The country's top politicians have addressed the protesters, telling them they have heard their complaints. Prime Minister Saad Hariri presented a reform program which was only passed in the Cabinet after street pressure. President Michel Aoun asked the protesters to send representatives for talks with him.



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