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  • A man adjusts Hezbollah flag on a vehicle decorated with a poster of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in the southern village of Kfar Kila, Lebanon, October 25, 2019.

    A man adjusts Hezbollah flag on a vehicle decorated with a poster of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in the southern village of Kfar Kila, Lebanon, October 25, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 25 October 2019
Opinion

“We do not accept the fall of the presidency nor do we accept the government’s resignation and we do not accept, amid these conditions, holding early parliamentary elections,” Nasrallah said.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned on Friday that nationwide protests could push the country into chaos, collapse and, “God forbid”, civil war.

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Supporters of Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed group with widespread influence in Lebanon, meanwhile scuffled with anti-government protesters who have been on the streets for days, angered by corruption and the near collapse of the economy.

Nasrallah rejected the demonstrators’ calls to bring down the government. The country endured a catastrophic civil war between 1975 and 1990.

“We do not accept the fall of the presidency nor do we accept the government’s resignation and we do not accept, amid these conditions, holding early parliamentary elections,” Nasrallah said.

Praising the protest movement for achieving “unprecedented” economic reforms announced this week, he said Lebanon must now search for ways to move forward and prevent a dangerous power vacuum.

Nasrallah is considered one of the country’s most influential figures. Hezbollah, a Shi’ite group, has a presence in government and a well-armed militia that has fought in Syria for President Bashar al Assad.

The protests that have paralyzed Lebanon took a more violent turn on Friday when groups supporting Hezbollah pushed into a peaceful demonstration in Beirut, scuffling with protesters and forcing riot police to intervene.

Dressed in plain black t-shirts common to Hezbollah supporters, the men shouted “we heed your call, Nasrallah”.

Two protesters were wounded in the scuffles, Lebanon’s Red Cross said. Riot police with masks and batons were dispatched to the square to defuse the situation as people began hurling stones and sticks.

The scuffles came just an hour before Nasrallah spoke in a television broadcast.

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