Lebanon’s President Aoun refuses to step down, as protests enters second week


Lebanon’s President Aoun refuses to step down, as protests enters second week

Thu 24 October 2019:

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun refused to step down and said on Thursday that sectarianism and corruption had destroyed the country, in his first address to the nation since the outbreak of nationwide anti-government demonstrations last week.

“I heard many calls for the change of government; government cannot be changed overnight. It must happen through constitutional reforms,” said Aoun, who blamed corruption across all political parties and sectarianism for the “destroying” the country.

“I have taken Lebanon to a place of safety and stability,” claimed Aoun, after saying that “sectarianism and corruption have destroyed the country.”

Aoun pointed to corruption across all the political parties as causing the crisis.

“Politicians must return embezzled funds. The corruption has no religion or sect … Let’s expose the corrupt and leave the matter in hands of judiciary,” says Lebanese President Michel Aoun, addressing Lebanon after a week of anti-government protests.”

“All political parties are responsible for protecting public funds from being stolen,” he added.

Many roads and highways across the country remain blocked, including the major highways into Beirut, according to Al Arabiya’s correspondent.

Other roads have been cleared in the south of the country, including from Bint Jbeil to Nabatieh, which witnessed intense protests on Wednesday night. The Lebanese army has increased its presence in Nabatieh in response to attacks on demonstrators last night.

Aoun pointed to the reforms proposed by the government under Prime Minister Saad Hariri as the solution to the crisis.

“The reforms that have been passed are the first step to saving Lebanon,” he said, listing a number of reforms including a bill which would remove political immunity from parliamentarians and government officials.

Aoun linked the reforms’ success to the Lebanese people, saying “freedom of expression is a right respected and cherished by all people,” and calling on citizens to monitor the reforms to ensure their success.

The Lebanese president ended his speech by refusing to step down and instead calling for dialogue as the solution. “Let’s initiate a constructive dialogue where practical measures are taken to reach the best results. Dialogue is the best way to solution,” he stated.

“I am ready to meet your representatives … to hear your demands.”

Crowds gathered in Jal El Deeb Square to watch the speech on a giant screen, reported Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA).

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