Paris Urges Respect for Lebanese Right to Protest, Encourages Reforms


France's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that Paris is closely following the developments in Lebanon, adding that the protests should remain peaceful and the right of Lebanese to protest should be respected.

It said France encourages the Lebanese government to carry out reforms in order for the CEDRE conference resolutions to be implemented.

France, Lebanon's former colonial ruler, remains a major player in Lebanese politics.

Embattled Prime Minister Saad Hariri sought international support Tuesday for economic reforms announced a day earlier, which were intended to pacify massive protests calling for his government to resign.

Hariri hopes the reform package will increase foreign investments and help Lebanon's struggling economy. But the nationwide demonstrations that began last week only grew larger Monday after the reforms were announced, with protesters dismissing them as more of the same "empty promises" seen in past decades that never materialized.

Lebanon's biggest demonstrations in 15 years have unified an often-divided public in their revolt against status-quo leaders who have ruled for three decades and brought the economy to the brink of disaster. Rampant corruption has also hollowed out the country's infrastructure and basic services.

In downtown Beirut, thousands of protesters were digging for a sixth day of demonstrations, insisting Hariri's government resign. Scores of other protesters held a sit-in outside the central bank, while protests in other cities and town continued as well.

Hariri held meetings Tuesday with ambassadors from the U.S., Russia, China, the European Union and the 22-member Arab League to explain the reform package.

"These measures are only the first step," Hariri told the envoys, as quoted in a statement released by his office. He said the package came after being "unanimously agreed upon by the government because of the young men and women who demonstrated over the past days for the sake of national dignity."

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