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Protesters Take to Streets across Lebanon over Planned Taxes

Protesters took to the streets and blocked key roads across Lebanon on Thursday evening over the government’s inclination to impose new taxes, especially a tax on voice calls via internet apps.

The protests first started at downtown Beirut’s Riad al-Solh Square following calls on social media before spreading to nearby areas and eventually to regions outside Beirut.

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Choucair Says Users to Get 'Something in Return' as 'WhatsApp Tax' Slammed

Telecommunications Minister Mohammed Choucair on Thursday said the planned fee on voice calls via WhatsApp and other apps is “not a tax” and that “nothing will be increased without giving something in return to citizens.”

“This is what I will explain in a press conference next week,” Choucair told MTV, noting that “the decision is the decision of the government with its various political blocs, not only the telecom minister.”

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Cabinet Adopts Border Control Strategy, Postpones Budget Debate

The Cabinet on Thursday approved a border control strategy amid the reservations of the Lebanese Forces party, as the debate of the 2020 draft state budget was postponed to a session that will be held on Friday.

Information Minister Jamal al-Jarrah said the strategy aims to “control the border with the neighboring countries.”

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No One in Lebanon Can 'Turn the Tables', Says Hizbullah Minister

State Minister for Parliament Affairs Mahmoud Qmati, who belongs to Hizbullah, on Thursday stressed that no party in Lebanon can “turn the tables,” following remarks in this regard by Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil.

“In Lebanon, no one can turn the tables on anyone, because that would be an elimination of the other,” said Qmati as he entered a Cabinet session at the Grand Serail.

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Jumblat Pledges to 'Confront Alone'

Progressive Socialist Party leader ex-MP Walid Jumblat on Thursday announced that his party is ready to confront the policies of the new presidential tenure and the Free Patriotic Movement even without the help of any other party.

“No matter what your capabilities in falsifying history, terror, arrests, oppression and murder might be, remember that we faced tougher and harsher circumstances and that we do not mind to confront alone,” Jumblat tweeted.

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Aoun Meets Irish Counterpart Raises Refugees File, Israeli Violations

President Michel Aoun on Thursday held a meeting with visiting Irish President at Baabda Palace who said that Ireland is keen on backing the Lebanese government, as discussions highlighted the need for Syrian refugees in Lebanon to return back home.

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Govt. Approves Imposing Fees on Free Online Calling Apps

The decline in telecom revenues seems to be a concern for the Lebanese state with the revenues of the sector falling by about 33% from 2017 and 2018, reports said.

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Report: Cabinet Inches Closer to Approving 2020 Budget

The Cabinet has drawn closer to approving the 2020 draft budget before the October 22 constitutional deadline, following its Wednesday meeting where ministers endorsed several decrees and reforms to cut expenditures and increase the state’s revenues.

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Bassil Meets Hariri, Says Ties are 'Always Fine'

Prime Minister Saad Hariri met Wednesday at the Grand Serail with Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil and discussed with him the latest political and economic developments in the country, the premier’s office said.

Asked about the talks, Bassil told MTV that his ties with Hariri are “always fine.”

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Gemayel Requests Parliamentary Probe into Idle Firefighting Planes

Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel on Wednesday filed a request for the formation of a parliamentary panel of inquiry to probe why Lebanon’s three firefighting planes have been unfunctional since 2014, a day after wildfires engulfed the country and prompted Lebanon to ask Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Jordan to send firefighting aircraft.

“Fires destroyed vast areas of forestland due to the government’s shortcomings and negligence in performing maintenance on the firefighting planes, leaving a lot of Lebanese areas and citizens under the mercy of the flames that besieged their homes, centers and vehicles,” Gemayel said at a press conference in Parliament.

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