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Hezbollah chief Nasrallah hunkers down, moves to thwart Lebanon protests

Nasrallah warned on Friday that nationwide protests could push the country into chaos. [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 October, 2019

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Hassan Nasrallah spoke on Friday shortly after his supporters clashed with protesters in central Beirut, rejecting that demonstrators equate him with corrupt politicians.
The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah movement warned on Friday that nationwide protests could push the country into chaos, saying that the popular anti-corruption movement was no longer spontaneous but had become politicised.

Hassan Nasrallah spoke Friday shortly after his supporters clashed with protesters in central Beirut, rejecting that demonstrators equate him with corrupt politicians.

He said political rivals who are critical of his group's political line are manipulating the protests. He said the protests have been exploited by international and regional powers who are also against his party.

"We do not accept the fall of the presidency nor do we accept the government's resignation and we do not accept, amid these conditions, holding early parliamentary elections," Nasrallah said.

Lebanon's national flag, instead of his party's colours, was seen behind him.

Praising the protest movement for achieving "unprecedented" economic reforms announced this week, he said Lebanon must now search for ways to move forward and prevent a dangerous power vacuum.

Read more: Five things you need to know about the protests in Lebanon

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

Earlier on Friday, anti-corruption protesters cut off major roads in Lebanon for a ninth day Friday, pledging to keep paralysing the country despite an offer by the president to meet their representatives.

The demonstrators, who have thronged towns and cities across Lebanon prompting the closure of banks and schools, have been demanding the removal of the entire political class, accusing it of systematic corruption.

Lebanon's largely sectarian political parties have been wrong-footed by the cross-communal nature of the demonstrations, which have drawn Christians and Muslims, Shiite, Sunni and Druze.

Hezbollah supporters clash with protesters

Earlier on Friday, scuffles broke out in the epicentre of anti-government protests in central Beirut.

Clashes occurred when supporters of the powerful Hezbollah group entered the area to reject chants against their leader, Hassan Nasrallah, who was named by the protest movement as one among the political elite who must leave the country.

Pro-Hezbollah supporters throwing sticks and stones clashed with riot police, as the latter attempted to break up the fight and formed layered lines to separate the Hezbollah supporters from the other protesters.

Lebanon Rises: Second wave of Arab Spring protests arrive in Beirut

The scuffles came shortly before the leader of Hezbollah was due to speak.

Anger has been building among Hezbollah supporters, because the protesters named him along with other corrupt politicians who must go. At one point, the Hezbollah supporters chanted: "Nasrallah is most honorable," waving their fists in the air.

At least two protesters were injured in the scuffles.



Agencies contributed to this report.

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