Lebanon protests enter second week

Beirut (AFP) –


Protests in Lebanon entered a second week on Thursday with demonstrators blocking main roads in Beirut and other parts of the country, AFP correspondents and Lebanese media reported.

Sparked on October 17 by a proposed tax on calls made through messaging apps, the protests have morphed into a cross-sectarian street mobilisation against a political system seen as corrupt and broken.

On Thursday morning, demonstrators set up roadblocks around the capital.

One major east-west artery was blocked by a dozen young protesters, who pitched tents in the middle of the road.

Sitting on the pavement with a red and white keffiyeh on his shoulders, a 30-year-old who had trained as a chef, said he had been protesting since the first day.

"We're here closing the main road to stop some movement in this country," he said, asking not to be identified.

"People think we're playing but we're actually asking for our most basic rights: water, food, electricity, healthcare, pensions, medicine, schooling," he told AFP.

Embattled Prime Minister Saad Hariri has presented a package of reforms, including cutting ministerial salaries, but the rallies have continued, crippling Beirut and other major cities.

President Michel Aoun was expected to speak later in the day.

On Wednesday, Hariri held meetings with security and military leaders, stressing the need to maintain security and open roads, the state-run National News Agency reported.

Washington on Wednesday called on Lebanon's leaders to meet the "legitimate" grievances of citizens.

More than a quarter of Lebanon's population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank.

Almost three decades after the end of Lebanon's civil war, political deadlock has stymied efforts to tackle mounting economic woes which have been compounded by the eight-year civil war in neighbouring Syria.