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Lebanon's Aoun invites protesters to talk, hints at government reshuffle

  • Published at 12:01 am October 25th, 2019
WEB_Lebanon protest
Demonstrators carry national flags during an anti-government protest in Tripoli, Lebanon October 22, 2019 Reuters

The country's banking association said banks would remain closed Friday for a seventh day due to safety concerns, and would open as soon as the situation stabilizes

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said yesterday he was ready for a dialogue with protesters to help save the country from collapse after days of demonstrations against the ruling elite, and suggested a government reshuffle was possible.

The country's banking association said banks would remain closed Friday for a seventh day due to safety concerns, and would open as soon as the situation stabilizes, with operations limited to paying out customer and employee salaries via ATMs.

Protests expressing outrage with an establishment seen as corrupt have swept Lebanon since last week, paralysing the country despite reforms intended to appease discontent and win over Western donors that have pledged badly needed aid.

In a televised address, Aoun promised to fight state corruption that he said had "eaten us to the bone" and assured protesters that their "shouts will not be wasted."

"I am ready to meet your representatives who carry your concerns, to listen to your specific demands," said Aoun.

The protest movement has cut across sectarian lines and been largely leaderless. It was not immediately clear which, if any, representatives would meet with Aoun.

He said there was "a need to review the current government," hinting a reshuffle could be in the cards, but warned protesters that the system could not be changed by crowding public spaces.

"We will discuss what we can do together to achieve your objectives without causing collapse and chaos, open a constructive dialogue that can lead to a constructive result, and define options that will lead to the best results."

The protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful and the army has struggled to prevent persistent demonstrators from blocking roadways. They have pledged not to use force to re-open roads. Schools have remained closed.