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Lebanon rocked by second night of violent unrest

December 16, 2019

Lebanon's president has postponed political consultations that were expected to rename Saad Hariri as prime minister. Protesters have chanted slogans against Hariri, calling for a revolution to tackle the crisis.

Lebanon protests
Image: Reuters/I. Abdallah

Lebanese security forces used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse anti-government protesters in central Beirut on Sunday night during the second day of violent protests that have wounded dozens of people.

The unrest came ahead of planned consultations between the president and parliamentary blocs on Monday in which former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who resigned in October, was expected to be renamed to the post. However, Lebanon's president postponed the talks until later this week.

Hariri stepped down on October 29 in the face of protests against political elites widely viewed as corrupt and responsible for plunging the country into a deepening economic crisis.

The reappointment of Hariri after weeks of political deadlock would likely further inflame a two-month old protest movement demanding an independent technocratic government.

"Saad, Saad, Saad, don't dream of it anymore,'' protesters chanted Sunday amid calls for "revolution, revolution."

Weekend of violence

Saturday and Sunday marked the most violent outburst in two months and signaled a growing willingness of security forces to use force to quell the unrest.

After hours of clashes between riot police and protesters on Sunday, the army was deployed to the streets.

The army, widely viewed as a nonsectarian institution, reportedly intervened between protesters and supporters of the Shiite groups Hezbollah and Amal.

The violence on Sunday began when demonstrators were attacked by counterprotesters as they tried to advance near parliament. Security forces then tried to disperse the demonstrators, triggering clashes.

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ls, cw/ng (AFP, AP, Reuters)