Prime Minister Hassan Diab accuses rivals of mounting a "coup" against his government as currency crisis deepens.
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab accused his opponents on Saturday of deepening a currency crisis and fuelling unrest as the country entered a third day of protests sparked by a sharp drop in the Lebanese pound.
In a televised address on Saturday, Diab said political opponents looking to thwart government efforts to investigate and crack down on corruption were stirring the latest unrest.
"Some have tried to exploit the situation again...They have thrown lies and rumours, have contributed to deepening the Lebanese pound crisis, have caused a major crisis and have pushed people onto the streets," Diab said.
Diab, who took office in January with the backing of the Hezbollah, did not name the opponents.
Diab condemned Friday night's violence and what he termed efforts to mount a "coup" against the government and "manipulate" the value of the Lebanese pound.
"The state and the people are being subjected to blackmail," he said, vowing to defeat corruption in the country.
Downed currency value
Protests broke out on Thursday after the currency plunged to new lows over the past week, with rising anger over the government's inability to contain an economic crisis that has devastated living conditions.
The pound has lost some 70 percent of its value since October, when the debt-saddled country was plunged into a financial crisis that has hiked prices, slashed jobs, and brought on capital controls that have frozen people out of their dollar savings.
The currency, which had hit about 5,000 to the dollar, appeared to reverse its slide on Friday after a government announcement that the central bank would inject dollars into the market on Monday.
Third day of protests
Protesters returned to streets across the country on Saturday, with demonstrations in Beirut, the northern city of Tripoli, and Sidon in the south, expressing outrage over the deteriorating conditions and many calling on the government to resign.
"We are here to demand the formation of a new transitional government" and early parliamentary elections, Nehmat Badreddine, an activist and demonstrator told AFP news agency near the Grand Serail seat of government.
Clashes with police
In the northern city of Tripoli, young men scuffled with security forces, who fired rubber bullets to disperse crowds.
The stand-off began after young men blocked a highway to prevent a number of trucks carrying produce destined for Syria from passing through, according to the official National News Agency.
The Lebanese Red Cross said it treated nine people wounded in Tripoli.
In Martyrs' Square, the epicentre of protests in downtown Beirut, demonstrators dressed in black and with their faces whitened carried a coffin draped with the Lebanese flag in a symbolic funeral Saturday for their crisis-ridden country.
Lebanon – one of the most indebted countries in the world, with a sovereign debt of more than 170 percent of GDP – went into default in March.
It started talks with the International Monetary Fund last month in a bid to unlock billions of dollars in financial aid. Dialogue is ongoing.
Unemployment has soared to 35 percent nationwide.
The country enforced a lockdown in mid-March to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, dealing a further blow to businesses.