October 24, 2019 / 9:20 AM / a month ago

UK says Lebanon protesters must be heard, urges swift reforms - tweet

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The “legitimate frustrations” of Lebanon’s protesters should be heard and reforms enacted urgently, the British embassy in Lebanon said on Thursday amid nationwide protests that have swept the country since last week.

The British position echoed that of the United States and France, close allies of Lebanon which have voiced exasperation at delays in enacting reforms and fighting corruption.

Protesters expressing outrage at the country’s ruling elite have called for their resignation and the return of money they say has been looted from the state.

Lebanese leaders are discussing a possible government reshuffle to defuse the unprecedented protests that have shut down banks, schools and roadways, government sources said on Wednesday.

“A week after these protests started, the Lebanese people have expressed legitimate frustrations, which must be heard. This is an important moment for Lebanon: the necessary reforms should be implemented urgently,” the British embassy tweet said.

The United States said on Wednesday it supported the right of protesters to demonstrate peacefully and said the Lebanese people were “rightfully angered” over their government’s refusal to tackle corruption.

France also urged Beirut to carry out the reforms, considered key to unlocking some $11 billion in financing pledged by western donor countries and lending institutions last year.

Protesters have said they are not satisfied with emergency reform measures announced this week that include halving ministers’ salaries and taxes on banks.

“The UK will continue to support a secure, stable, sovereign and prosperous Lebanon, including a stronger and fairer economy, quality education for all, improved services, and enhanced security,” said a second tweet from the UK embassy.

Reporting by Eric Knecht; editing by Samia Nakhoul and Nick Tattersall

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