Zarif Urges Lebanon Govt. to 'Pay Attention to People's Demands'

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday expressed hope that Lebanon's government and political parties will pay "attention to people's demands," Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported.

It was the first remarks by an Iranian official about the protests in Lebanon.

Iran enjoys wide influence in Lebanon through its ally Hizbullah, which is militarily and financially backed by Tehran. Hizbullah and its allies have a majority of seats in Lebanon's parliament and Cabinet.

On Saturday, Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah told protesters their "message was heard loudly."

But he warned against demanding the resignation of the government -- saying it could take a long time to form a new one and solve the crisis.

The current unity government has the backing of most Lebanese political parties, including Hizbullah.

Lebanon's teetering government approved an economic rescue plan Monday but the last-ditch move was met with deep distrust from a swelling protest movement seeking the removal of the entire political class.

A proposed tax on mobile messaging applications last week sparked a spontaneous, cross-sectarian mobilization that has brought Lebanon to a standstill and united the people against its hereditary, ruling elite.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri seemed aware that the measures he announced -- which include a deal on the 2020 budget and significant reforms that seemed unlikely only a week ago -- would not quench the people's thirst for change.

"These decisions are not designed as a trade-off. They are not to ask you to stop expressing your anger. That is your decision to make," Hariri said in a televised press conference.

Source: Associated Press, Naharnet, Agence France Presse

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