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Western Countries Praise Lebanese Protests

Western Countries Praise Lebanese Protests

Tuesday, 22 October, 2019 - 07:30
Demonstrators carry national flags during an anti-government protest in downtown Beirut, Lebanon October 20, 2019. (Reuters)
Beirut - Khalil Fleihan
Western countries did not evacuate their nationals from Lebanon over recent anti-government protests because their security assessments concluded that the popular movement did not pose a threat to their diplomats or individuals working in private firms.

The embassies, such as the United States mission, only advised nationals to avoid protest areas and others perceived as dangerous.

Asharq Al-Awsat learned that security officials at a number of western embassies, including the great powers, considered that this movement does not jeopardize their diplomats or nationals.

During five days of protests, no heavy weapons were used, in contrast to the civil war when embassies had to evacuate their staff and nationals.

Two acts of violence were witnessed over the past five days when former MP Misbah al-Ahdab’s bodyguards accidentally opened fire in the northern city of Tripoli. The second saw a scuffle erupt between Minister Akram Shehayyeb’s bodyguards and protesters in Beirut.

An ambassador of a major power revealed that he formed a cell to monitor the popular protests in all regions.

Observers noted the understanding position of security forces and the military in dealing with the demonstrators. They have tolerated some rioters, such as those who threw rocks and empty bottles at them. The violence ultimately left 57 soldiers wounded. Riot police have not been forced to take any action.

The ambassador said the protest slogans revealed that the Lebanese people have moved on past sectarian divisions and are seeking to eliminate any sectarian chants and are only carrying the Lebanese flag, not political ones.

A European country ambassador said the movement was calm and civil and that its positives outweigh the negatives. Western diplomatic circles also hailed Prime Minister Saad Hariri for stressing that the security forces were protecting the protesters.

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