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Lebanese PM Hariri announces resignation amid large-scale protests

Lebanese PM Hariri announces resignation amid large-scale protests
Lebanese PM Saad al-Hariri is tendering his own resignation and that of his government, after over a week of protests that paralyzed the country, as the people accuse authorities of corruption and of causing an economic collapse.

Hariri, who was in the office since December 2016, announced quits during a televised address to the nation.

“I have reached a dead end today,” he said. The outgoing PM also reminded the country’s political parties that it was their responsibility to protect Lebanon.

The resignation went on against the will of influential Lebanese group, Hezbollah, who earlier insisted that the PM should maintain his post to avoid a power vacuum.

Last week, the head of the government announced a set of economic reforms and anti-corruption measures as thousands walked out across the country, blocking roads and calling for a revolution.

But the move backfired for Hariri, with people saying it weren’t enough and remaining in streets, while his opponents in the cabinet reportedly blaming the 49-year-old PM of siding with the demonstrators.

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Tensions were high in Beirut on Tuesday as Hezbollah supporters clashed with anti-government protesters, trying to dismantle the tents and roadblocks they’d set up around the capital. They were the first such incidents since the start of the rallies, with police interfering to separate the sides.

Local banks have remained closed for ten days now, over fears that they may be stormed by the crowds. Lebanon remains in deep economic crisis; the country has one of the world's highest levels of government debt. According to IMF forecasts, the fiscal deficit will reach 9.8 percent of GDP this year and 11.5 percent in 2020.

International donors promised around $11 billion in support to Lebanon last year, but they say they will only transfer the money after they see real economic reforms.

Hariri already announced his resignation in November 2017, and it came under very strange circumstances. His statement back then was made from abroad, when he was on a visit to Saudi Arabia. This led to speculation that it was Riyadh that had forced him step down, amid a spike in tensions between the Saudis and Iran, which always had strong ties with Hezbollah.

However, Hariri retracted his decision as soon as he made it back to Lebanon, saying that he would stay in power and try to keep the country out of international conflicts.

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