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LEBANON: Hariri agrees reforms amid nationwide protests

Beirut, Oct.25.– Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri agreed yesterday a Saad al-Hariripackage of reforms with government partners to ease an economic crisis that has sparked protests aimed at ousting a ruling elite they see as riddled with corruption and cronyism.

Officials told Reuters the agreement was reached as hundreds of thousands of protesters flooded the streets in the biggest show of dissent against the establishment in decades. A sea of people, some waving Lebanese flags, crammed roads for the fourth day, calling for revolution in protests that resembled the 2011 Arab revolts that toppled four presidents.

Hezbollah controlled areas in Lebanon (in red)Hariri, who is leading a coalition government mired by sectarian and political rivalries, gave his feuding government partners a 72-hour deadline on Friday to agree reforms that could ward off crisis, hinting he may otherwise resign.

Hariri accused his rivals of obstructing his reform measures that could unlock $11bn in Western donor pledges and help avert economic collapse. The reform decisions require a 50% reduction in salaries of current and former presidents, ministers and MPs plus cuts in benefits to state institutions and officials. It also obliges the central bank and private banks to contribute $3.3bn to achieve a “near zero deficit” for the 2020 budget.

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