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Tuesday , December 10 2019

Lebanon crisis evokes start of 75-90 civil war – S&P cuts rating on 3 banks

An anti-government protester burns tires to close the main highways during ongoing protests against the government, in Khaldeh, south of Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. Protesters have been holding demonstrations since Oct. 17 demanding an end to widespread corruption and mismanagement by the political class that has ruled the country for three decades. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

BEIRUT, Nov 14, (RTRS): Lebanon’s Defence Minister said on Thursday the country was in a “very dangerous situation” and compared street unrest of recent days to the start of 1975-’90 civil war.

One month after the start of nationwide protests, Lebanon is in serious political and economic trouble with no indication of its leaders agreeing on a new government to replace the outgoing cabinet of Saad al-Hariri, who quit as premier on Oct 29.

Despite the magnitude of the economic crisis, the biggest since the war, leaders have not been able to agree a new cabinet or to tackle the grievances of demonstrators who say they have ruined Lebanon through corruption and sectarian cronyism.

Though the protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful, a protester who was shot dead south of Beirut on Tuesday. Defence Minister Elias Bou Saab, a political ally of President Michel Aoun, said tensions on the street and road closures “have reminded us of the civil war, what happened in 1975. And this is situation is very dangerous.” He was referring to incidents including an attempt by protesters to build walls on the main coastal highway.

Bou Saab told reporters the protesters’ “democratic movement” was not to blame, and demonstrators had a right to protest and to be protected. But he added that the army and security services could not accept any person thinking of taking violent actions.

Aoun said he hoped a government could be formed in the coming days aiming to meet the demand of the protesters. But much of the country remained at a standstill, and traders said they could not pay for imports of necessities.

Meanwhile, S&P Global Ratings said on Thursday it was lowering the ratings on three Lebanese banks further into junk, citing rising liquidity pressures due to faster deposit erosion. Long-term credit ratings on Bank Audi, Blom Bank and Bankmed were lowered to CCC from B-, the ratings agency said, adding the ratings would remain on CreditWatch, making them vulnerable to the risk of further downgrades

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