Tensions Soar After President’s Speech, Army Deploys in Baabda


Lebanese army troops on Wednesday deployed heavily near the Presidential Palace in Baabda amid tight security measures, after a night of unrest following President Michel Aoun’s announcement that there could be further delays before a new government is formed.

“Army troops deployed in masses in Baabda in case of any emergency,” said the National News Agency.

Angry protesters blocked several major highways with burning tires and dirt mounds in protest at Aoun’s remarks.

Protesters had poured into the streets Tuesday night closing roads around Lebanon after Aoun said in a televised interview that there could be further delays before a new government is formed. He also defended the role of his allies, Hizbullah, in Lebanon's government.

He said it could take days to set a date for consultations with heads of parliamentary blocs for the naming of a new prime minister and added that the best option is for the new Cabinet to include both politicians and technocrats. Protesters have demanded a Cabinet without politicians

A local official for a Lebanese political party was shot dead by soldiers trying to open a road closed by protesters in the Khaldeh neighborhood in southern Beirut late Tuesday, the army reported, marking the first death in 27 days of nationwide protests.

An army statement said the army command had opened an investigation into the killing after arresting the soldier.

The incident was sure to inflame tensions already running high in the country, which has been engulfed by nationwide protests against the country's entire political class since Oct. 17. The leaderless, economically driven protests were triggered by new proposed taxes and have quickly evolved into the most spread and most sustained Lebanon has seen in years.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned his government Oct. 29 in response to the unprecedented nationwide protests since the middle of last month. The protests have snowballed into calls for the government to resign and for the entire political elite that has governed Lebanon since the end of its 1975-90 civil war to step aside.

Protesters are demanding a government made up of technocrats that would get immediately to work on the necessary reforms to address the worst economic and financial crisis Lebanon is passing through in decades. Politicians are divided among other things over whether the new Cabinet should be made up of experts only or include politicians.

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