U.S. says supports Lebanese people’s call for action for economic reform

U.S. says supports Lebanese people's call for action for economic reform

Lebanese people are “rightfully angered” with their government over its refusal to tackle corruption and Washington supports their right to demonstrate peacefully, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Wednesday.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Lebanon have flooded the streets for nearly a week in an unprecedented wave of demonstrations, furious at a political class they accuse of pushing the economy to the point of collapse.

Describing the protests “long overdue”, the official called on the Lebanese government to carry out the economic reforms demanded by the people, adding Beirut should not get a “bailout” from the crisis.

“The people in Lebanon are frustrated. The crowds that are coming out are enormous…and people want to see action. The United States government supports their call for action for reform for fighting corruption,” the official told reporters. “This is not a new problem. The economic crisis that Lebanon is currently facing was a slow train coming.”

Flag-waving protesters kept roads blocked with vehicles and makeshift barricades for a seventh day on Wednesday. Banks have been closed since Friday and will remain shut on Thursday, the banking association said. Schools are also closed.

Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s government announced an emergency reform package on Monday to try to assuage public anger and steer the state away from a looming financial crisis.

Washington was in routine contact with their Lebanese counterparts but was not up to the United States to tell Beirut what to do, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.