Hundreds protest for second day against Lebanon austerity

Fri 18 Oct 2019 11:45 GMT | 15:45 Local Time

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Public anger has simmered since parliament passed an austerity budget in July to help trim a ballooning deficit and flared on Thursday over plans to tax calls on messaging applications such as Whatsapp, prompting the government to withdraw the deeply unpopular proposal.

The government is weighing a raft of new belt-tightening measures it hopes will shore up its finances and secure the disbursement of $11 billion in aid pledged by international donors last year.

It is expected to announce a series of new taxes as part of next year's budget, which is currently being drawn by ministers.

On Friday morning, charred refuse bins, torched tyres, broken street signs and shattered glass from damaged storefronts littered the streets of central Beirut -- the scene of violent confrontations between security forces and protesters overnight.

The government announced the cancellation of a planned cabinet meeting as protesters gathered for a second day, the state-run National News Agency reported.

But Prime Minister Saad Hariri was expected to deliver a speech later in the day.

Banks, state institutions, schools and universities were closed as protesters blocked key highways connecting the capital to the rest of the country with burning tyres.

An AFP correspondent said demonstrators cut the main road to Beirut airport for a second straight day.

Interior Minister Raya al-Hassan warned protesters "against damaging public and private property and blocking roads."

Security forces will take necessary measures to protect the safety of civilians and their property, she said on Twitter Friday.




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