Students lead protests in Lebanon as President Aoun set to speak

Students led protests in Lebanon on Thursday as President Michel Aoun is due to give a speech the evening before the country’s Independence Day.

Students staged sit-ins outside schools and businesses in Tripoli, according to Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA). Local media also reported students outside schools elsewhere in the country including Sidon, Beirut, and Halba.

Aoun will give a speech at 8:00 p.m. Lebanon time (10:00 p.m. Dubai time), said the NNA, on the eve of Lebanon’s 76th anniversary of independence. However, the Palace’s Directorate General of Protocol and Public Relations announced on Thursday afternoon that the traditional annual Independence Day reception at Baabda Presidential Palace has been cancelled.

Aoun has refused to resign amid protests, and claimed in a tweet on Thursday that US President Donald Trump told him the US is ready to work with a new Lebanese government that responds to the needs of its people.

Also on Thursday afternoon, Lebanese House Speaker Nabih Berri called for a parliamentary session next week to discuss draft legislation on banking secrecy and returning stolen state funds. Berri had previously said that the Lebanon is like a sinking ship that will go under unless action is taken, but has voiced his opposition to protests.

The country remains in political and economic deadlock following former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s resignation and a looming economic collapse.

On Tuesday, it was reported that Lebanon’s caretaker information minister Jamal al-Jarrah, who is a member of Hariri’s Future bloc, and two former telecommunication ministers could face corruption charges. Their cases have been referred to a special judicial panel on accusations of wasting public funds.

Corruption among the political elite is one of the causes of the nationwide demonstrations which erupted in October.

Protesters blocked the Lebanese parliament from meeting to discuss a controversial amnesty law on Tuesday.

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