Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri offers his resignation after weeks of protest
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Lebanon's embattled Prime Minister Saad Hariri submitted his resignation on Tuesday following nearly two weeks of unprecedented protests demanding political change.
In a televised address on Tuesday, Hariri said he would submit his government's resignation to President Michel Aoun in response to the protests, saying his administration had "reached a dead end".
"It has become necessary for us to make a great shock to fix the crisis. I am going to the Baabda Palace to give my resignation," Hariri added, calling on all Lebanese to protect the peace.
Reporting from the scene, FRANCE 24's Beirut correspondent Leila Molana-Allen said people’s reactions to the announcement have been “huge”.
“Cheers, screams erupted across the streets. People were letting off red flares, the colours of the Lebanese flag, drumming began, they started shouting ‘revolution’ and then they all together, without any music, sang the Lebanese national anthem. People were hugging, they were crying,” she said.
Following the announcement, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called on those in charge to “do everything to guarantee the stability of institutions and the unity of Lebanon", adding: "That is indispensable.”
Le Drian said he hopes the demands of the Lebanese people will be heard and suggested that political leaders should put the country's interests above their own.
As Lebanon's former colonial ruler, France remains influential in Lebanese politics.
Hariri's announcement came hours after a mob loyal to Shiite militant party Hezbollah and the Amal party attacked and destroyed a camp set up by anti-government demonstrators in central Beirut.
The protest camp had been the focal point of the countrywide rallies against the political elite, which demonstrators accuse of rampant corruption and steering Lebanon towards economic collapse.
Molana-Allen said the mob "were attacking protesters, they were ripping things apart, they were attacking media as well”.
The show of force came after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said last week that roads closed by protesters should be reopened and suggested the demonstrators were financed by foreign enemies.
Smoke rose as some of the tents were set ablaze. Hezbollah and Amal supporters had earlier fanned out in the downtown area of the capital shouting “Shia, Shia” and cursing protesters.
“With our blood and lives we offer ourselves as a sacrifice for you Nabih,” they chanted, in reference to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, head of the Amal movement. “We heed your call, we heed your call, Nasrallah,” they added.
Security forces did not intervene to stop the assault, in which protesters were hit with sticks and were seen appealing for help as they ran, witnesses said. Tear gas was eventually fired to disperse the crowds.
Reforms not enough
Nationwide protests since October 17 have paralysed Lebanon at a time of deep economic crisis -- banks were closed for a 10th day on Tuesday along with schools and businesses.
Hariri’s offer to resign is a challenge to the powerful Hezbollah movement -- Nasrallah has twice said that he was against such a step, citing the risk of a dangerous void.
Hariri last week sought to defuse popular anger through a set of reform measures agreed with other groups in his coalition government, including Hezbollah, to tackle corruption and long-delayed economic reforms.
But with no immediate steps towards enacting these steps, they did not satisfy demonstrators whose demands include the resignation of his coalition government.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS and AP)