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Hariri urges new government formation to 'calm popular storm' in Lebanon

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri (file photo by AFP)

Lebanon’s Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri has urged politicians to urgently form a new government and “stop wasting time” to find solutions for the Lebanese economic crisis in order to “calm the popular storm.”

“We feared for Beirut yesterday, but as usual, it has stitched the wounds of its sons from the ranks of the security forces and protesters and removed from its face the remains of anger, rioting and the smoke of blazes,” Hariri wrote on his official Twitter page on Sunday, after a night of violent clashes between security forces and protesters.

“We plead to God for the recovery and safety of all those wounded and for sparing our country the threat of descending into strife,” Hariri added.

“There is a way to calm the popular storm. There is a way to calm the popular storm. Stop wasting time, form a government and open the door to political and economic solutions.

“To keep the army, security forces and protesters in a state of confrontation is to circle inside the problem,” the caretaker Lebanese prime minister pointed out.

On Saturday evening, almost 400 people were wounded during running skirmishes between Lebanese anti-government protesters and security forces in Beirut.

According to a toll compiled by AFP from figures provided by the Red Cross and Civil Defence, at least 377 people – both protesters and members of the security forces – sustained injuries in the mayhem.

Human Rights Watch condemned what it called “the brutal use of force unleashed by Lebanon's riot police against largely peaceful demonstrators.”

“Riot police showed a blatant disregard for their human rights obligations, instead launching tear gas canisters at protesters' heads, firing rubber bullets in their eyes and attacking people at hospitals and a mosques,” Michael Page, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at the rights group, said.

He urged Lebanese authorities to act quickly “to end this culture of impunity for police abuse.”

Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab has vowed to form a government made up of “independent specialists,” who do not belong to political parties.

Nabih Berri, who serves as both the parliament speaker and leader of the Amal movement, as well as Hezbollah officials have called for the formation of a techno-political government, which embraces and represents all parties.

Lebanon has been facing a very tough economic situation because of the failing policies of successive governments, which have led to the impoverishment of the people.

Growth in Lebanon has plummeted in the wake of endless political deadlocks and an economic crisis in recent years.

The country hosts 1.5 million Syrian refugees, and their presence is often blamed for putting pressure on the already struggling economy.

Unemployment stands at more than 20 percent, according to official figures.

The Lebanese Finance Ministry says the national debt is hovering around $85 billion, which accounts for more than 150 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Successive governments have also failed to address a waste management crisis or improve the electricity grid, which is plagued by daily power cuts.

On October 29, Hariri submitted his resignation to President Michel Aoun.

Under the constitution, Hariri’s cabinet would stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed.

The protests began on October 17, when the government proposed imposing a tax on Whatsapp calls, along with other austerity measures.

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