Protests turn violent in Beirut

Beirut: Lebanese security forces fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse hundreds of protesters for a second straight day on Sunday, local time, ending what started as a peaceful rally in defiance of the toughest crackdown on anti-government demonstrations in two months.

The violence came on the eve of a meeting between the President and parliamentary blocs in which outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri is widely expected to be renamed to the post. The tension also reflects deepening divisions in the country that is grappling with a severe liquidity and foreign currency crunch.

Hariri resigned on October 29 amid nationwide protests that have accused the entire political elite of corruption and mismanagement amid the country’s worst economic crisis in decades. The protesters say they won’t accept Hariri as prime minister, demanding an independent head of government not affiliated with existing parties.

“Saad, Saad, Saad, don’t dream of it anymore,” protesters chanted on Sunday, local time.

After weeks of bickering, the political parties failed to put forward independent names, most of them insisting on keeping their political share in the government.

Saturday saw one of the most violent crackdowns on protesters since nationwide anti-government demonstrations began two months ago. The overnight confrontations in Beirut left more than 130 people injured, according to the Red Cross and the Lebanese Civil Defence. The Red Cross said none of the injured were in serious condition and most of them were treated on the spot.

Read the article in The Sydney Morning Herald (AP).