Lebanon News

Hariri to address the nation at 6 p.m.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri heads a Cabinet session in Beirut, Oct. 14, 2019. (The Daily Star/Mohamad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Saad Hariri will address the Lebanese people at 6 p.m. Friday amid growing protests and calls for him to resign.

He will deliver the speech from his office at the Grand Serail, a statement from his office said.

Earlier in the day, Hariri called President Michel Aoun and agreed to cancel Cabinet's session, according to a tweet by the president's office. The two officials also discussed the recent protests and the measures that should be taken to ensure the protection of public and private property.

The premier's decision to cancel Friday's session was announced in a statement from the government's secretariat.

"He will [address the nation] later," Interior Minister Raya El Hassan said. She added that the resignation of the government is not the solution, but that all options were on the table.

At least four ministers were not going to participate in the Cabinet session after the Lebanese Forces made the decision and the party's leader called on Hariri to resign.

LF leader Samir Geagea called on Hariri to resign Friday morning in a statement published on the party’s website.

“The best thing Hariri can give in these difficult moments is to submit the resignation of this Cabinet, in preparation for a totally different and new Cabinet," Geagea said. He added that this was needed in order to boost the economy.

Deputy Premier Ghassan Hasbani and Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumjian, both LF ministers, also called on Hariri to resign.

"The LF is with Hariri if he takes a decision [to resign] and [the LF] will be by his side," Hasbani said.

On Thursday evening, Progressive Socialist Party Walid Joumblatt also called on Hariri to resign.

“The Lebanese Forces’ ministers will not participate in today’s afternoon Cabinet session ... and everyone knows that we are going to vote against the [2020 state] budget,” Minister of State for Administrative Development May Chidiac said in televised remarks.

The LF has four ministers: Hasbani, Kouyoumjian, Chidiac and Labor Minister Camille Abousleiman.

Both Joumblatt and Geagea called on their respective parties' supporters to go down to the streets and join the protests Friday.

Cabinet was set to meet in a session chaired by Aoun at Baabda Palace at 2 p.m. Friday. The session had initially been scheduled to be held at the Grand Serail and to be chaired by Hariri in order to finalize discussions of the draft 2020 state budget. But in a phone call with Hariri Thursday night, Aoun requested to chair the session. The constitutional deadline for Cabinet to submit the budget to Parliament is Oct. 22 this year.

Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil met with Aoun and announced that he would make a televised speech at 4:30 p.m. from the presidential palace.

 

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