Besieged by protesters, Lebanon assembly postpones session - GulfToday

Besieged by protesters, Lebanon assembly postpones session


Lebanese protestors trying to reach the parliament in Beirut scuffle with security forces on Tuesday. Joseph Eid/AFP

From early morning, hundreds of noisy demonstrators and riot police had faced off and at times scuffled outside the assembly in Beirut, with activists also trying to block MPs' convoys.

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"Revolution, revolution," chanted the protesters, punching the air with their fists and waving Lebanese flags, in the latest rally in over a month of street protests.

Flaming tires set by anti-government protesters to block roads in the Lebanese southern city of Sidon. AFP

"This parliament is ours," chanted one woman through a megaphone as others banged pots and pans.

Then, shortly before noon and after several parties had said they would boycott the session, parliament official Adnane Daher appeared before TV cameras.

Scuffles have broken out in central Beirut as protesters tried to prevent lawmakers from reaching Parliament. AP

Lebanon has slid further into economic crisis since the protests erupted on Oct. 17. The political situation has been deadlocked since Saad Al Hariri resigned as prime minister on Oct. 29, with no progress towards a deal on a new government.

Gunfire was heard as a group of several dozen protesters forced two SUVs with official number plates and tinted windows to turn back as they approached the parliament, footage broadcast by Lebanese broadcasters showed.

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The vehicles sped away after they were struck by demonstrators chanting "Out, out, out," the footage showed.

A protester waves a Lebanese flag on a road leading to the parliament building, in Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday. AP

One lawmaker told Reuters he had stayed away from parliament and expected the session to be cancelled.

Riot police scuffled with a group of protesters who were trying to use a cable to remove a barbed wire barricade blocking a road near parliament, a Reuters witness said.

Police officers stand guard as a protester cuts barbed wire during ongoing anti-government protests in Beirut. Reuters

"How are they holding a session and not responding to the people? Those that are in the session have nothing to do with us, and it's not what we asked for," said a protester who gave her name as Maria.

The protests have been fuelled by perceptions of corruption among the sectarian politicians who have governed Lebanon for decades and are blamed for leading the country into its worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.

"This confrontation should not happen," caretaker finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil told reporters outside parliament.

"Protesters have the right to demonstrate but lawmakers also have the right to go to perform their duties," he said. 

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