Lebanon prime minister blames political opponents for protests
Protests erupted across Lebanon on Thursday after its currency sank to new lows this week. The Lebanese pound has lost 70 percent of its value over the past few months and the black market exchange rate has fallen to more than 6,000 Lebanese pounds to the dollar.
The crash appeared to reflect the growing shortage of foreign currency on the market amid the crisis. It also signalled panic over new US sanctions that will soon affect neighbouring Syria, as well as lack of trust in the government’s management of the crisis.
In a televised address on Saturday, Diab - who is backed by Shia movement Hezbollah - said the protests were fuelled by political opponents who sought to sabotage government efforts to crack down on corruption, according to Reuters.
“Some have tried to exploit the situation again," said Diab. "They have thrown lies and rumours, have contributed to deepening the Lebanese pound crisis, have caused a major crisis and have pushed people onto the streets."
He did not name the alleged perpetrators.
As the currency crisis worsened living conditions, outraged protesters blocked roads, burned tires, smashed storefronts and called for Diab's resignation.
On Saturday, at least 49 people were injured in Tripoli - an economically depressed city hit hard by the crisis - after clashes broke out between protesters and soldiers.
Amid the protests, Lebanon's government pledged to inject dollars into the market on Monday in a bid to bolster the sagging currency.
The Lebanese government has been in talks for weeks with the International Monetary Fund after it asked for a financial rescue plan, but there are no signs of an imminent deal.
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