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World


Lebanon PM wins confidence vote amidst financial woes

Beirut, Feb 12 (UNI) Lebanon's Parliament on Wednesday voted to approve a new cabinet and also Prime Minister Hassan Diab's financial rescue plan in a vote of confidence which was held despite attempts by protesters to block it.
According to Al Jazeera, Speaker Nabih Berri declared after a nine-hour session on Tuesday that 63 of the 84 MPs present voted in support of the new government formed last month, while 24 MPs voted against it and one of them abstained.
Hezbollah and its allies - the Free Patriotic Movement and the Amal Movement - backed the government, while the Future Movement of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri voted against it along with its allies, the Lebanese Forces and the Progressive Socialist Party.
Speaking before the vote, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said his government's priority was preserving foreign currency needed for imports and that all options for dealing with Eurobonds maturing this year were being studied.
Diab, a little-known academic and former education minister, was tasked with forming a government in December after Hariri was forced to resign.
For months, thousands of Lebanese have been protesting against the proposed cabinet, saying it would not be able to rescue the country's ailing economy.
On Tuesday, more than 350 people were injured in clashes around the Lebanese Parliament building in the capital as protesters attempted to prevent the MPs from participating in the confidence vote.
"We don't have confidence in a single one of them," Suzie Jumaa, a 49-year-old media professional told Al Jazeera, as she blocked a main thoroughfare in downtown Beirut.
But despite the protesters' efforts to block the vote, a quorum was achieved in the parliamentary session, which began around 0945 hrs (GMT) on Tuesday.
Several MPs reached Parliament on motorcycles, giving them the agility to avoid the protestors, while others arrived in heavily-guarded convoys. However, some of them were forced to retreat under a hail of stones and projectiles that shattered car windows.
MP Salim Saadeh, a representative of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, was taken to hospital and received stitches after protesters wrecked his car.
Protesters tore down metal and cement barricades put up around Nejmeh Square, the seat of the Parliament. Some also set fire to a bank next to the parliament's entrance.
Running street battles lasting several hours ensued in downtown Beirut before calming down some nine hours later.
Security forces used batons, tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets to disperse the protesters.
The Lebanese Red Cross said it transported 45 people to hospitals and treated 328 at the scene.
Speaking in parliament Prime Minister Diab said the government would undertake fiscal and administrative reforms, fight corruption, tax evasion and smuggling, and seek to establish the independence of the judiciary within 100 days.
People have been demonstrating since October when prime minister Hariri was forced out of office. People have been demanding the ouster of the political class which has ruled the country since 1990.
Protesters have been demanding a government made up of independent experts to lead the country out of its financial crisis, fight corruption and hold early elections.
Many feel that Diab's government of 20 ministers, picked mostly by Hezbollah and its main allies, the Free Patriotic Movement and the Amal Movement, has failed in meeting their demands for change.
UNI XC-ACL RHK1549
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