Salam Extends Hand to Trash Protesters Who Call for Massive Demo in Response

Prime Minister Tammam Salam said Sunday he was ready to meet with members of a growing movement protesting the country's trash crisis, and admitted that "excessive force" had been used against demonstrators.

Salam’s comments came in a press conference he held against the backdrop of Saturday’s clashes between security forces and activists of the anti-garbage demonstrators in Downtown Beirut.

He said that he stood "with the people and with the citizens."

Addressing the protesters, he said he extended his "hand to civil society. I'm ready to listen to you and sit with you."

“Lebanon and the people are passing through very difficult times which compels the necessity for each to shoulder responsibility,” said the PM.

He emphasized that the clashes that left scores injured “are a huge responsibility,” pledging to hold accountable those "responsible" for using "excessive force against civil society and against the people."

“What happened yesterday was the result of accumulating matters that have been building up and increasing the people’s suffering as the result of the vacuum we are living,” he stated.

He assured that the incidents will not pass without accountability, adding “I have no cover for anyone.”

Salam also warned that if the cabinet failed to convene productively on Thursday, then there is no need for it in the first place.

He blamed all political parties for the cabinet obstruction and the presidential vacuum saying: “I have always warned that this incapability will accumulate negativity in the country. I have been tolerating all this for the people’s sake.”

In a reference to his earlier threats to submit his resignation in light of the ongoing obstruction of the cabinet’s work, Salam said: “On several occasions I have warned that I would submit my resignation, and I have warned that the situation is becoming unbearable. I have warned that I would resign but the people’s will prevented me.”

“My patience is limited and it is linked to yours,” he said as if referring to a possible resignation on his part if the street protests went completely out of hand.

“Our country is going backwards while other countries are progressing.

The Lebanese citizens have been patient for long, watching all countries achieve progress while Lebanon is deteriorating,” he stated.

“I have always been frank and open. I am a citizen too. I have never sought for positions but always tried to support them.

“I have called for a cabinet session on Thursday that will address pressing issues and the living matters as we approach the school season and a number of entitlements. If that convention failed to achieve the desired results, then there is no need for the cabinet in the first place,” he indicated.

“I continue to bear the responsibility for your (the people) sake. But my patience has limits.

“I call on you people to stand in the face of those who mean harm. I call on the civil society to form a delegation and put our hands together to discuss any issue there is. I have nothing to hide,” concluded Salam.

However, You Stink issued a statement following Salam’s speech calling on the PM to submit his resignation. “We demand that Salam submits his resignation and that the aggressors are held accountable.”

They also called for a massive demonstration today at 6:00 pm.

Police clashed on Saturday with anti-garbage demonstrators and used tear gas and water cannon to disperse them in downtown Beirut's Riad al-Solh square and to stop them from moving towards the nearby Nijmeh Square, leaving scores of protesters injured.

However, the demonstrators stayed in the area and urged all the Lebanese people to join them but anti-riot police opened fire in the air and used baton charges.

The demonstrators erected tents near Martyrs' Square, vowing to stay there until police release several activists they arrested during the protest.

Source: Naharnet, Agence France Presse

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