Lebanon cabinet set for key meeting as protests swell

Beirut, Oct 21 (AFP/APP): Lebanese protesters were expected to return to the streets for a fifth day Monday, with Prime Minister Saad Hariri holding a cabinet meeting to try to calm the unprecedented demonstrations.

Hundreds of thousands of people from across Lebanon’s sectarian divides rallied against corruption and the entire political class Sunday, the largest such demonstrations in the country for years.

Early Monday morning protesters began to block main roads and prevent employees going to work, while calls on social media urged people to boycott work.

Banks, universities and schools closed their doors Monday, with Hariri expected to offer reforms in a bid to stem the anger.

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“It’s a day of destiny for us. All our hard work and efforts in previous days and years were to get us to this moment,” said Roni al-Asaad, a 32-year-old activist in central Beirut.

“If they could have implemented these reforms before, why haven’t they? And why should we believe them today?”

At the nerve centre of the demonstrations near the country’s houses of government in central Beirut, volunteers were once again collecting rubbish from the streets, many wearing face masks and plastic gloves.

The protests have grown steadily since public anger first spilled onto the streets Thursday evening in response to a proposed tax on calls via WhatsApp and other messaging services.

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