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Beirut trash talks fail amid renewed protests

Protest organizers have called on Lebanese at home and abroad to join them in a large rally on Saturday

Published: Updated:

An emergency Lebanese cabinet meeting on Tuesday ended in failure after members of the Hezbollah group and its Christian allies walked out in protest at a proposed solution to a garbage disposal crisis that has ignited violent protests in Beirut.

An agreement was reached, however, on cancelling all the tenders from companies to remove the piling garbage that have been previously announced.

Al Arabiya News channel’s correspondent in Beirut confirmed the withdrawal of members from Hezbollah and its allies, the Free Patriotic Movement and the Armenian Tashnag Party in Lebanon from Tuesday's talks.

Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil also pulled out because of a "theater" being performed with regards to the trash issue, according to the Associated Press.

Beirut-based activists from the "You Stink" campaign held two large rallies over the weekend and a smaller march on Monday over uncollected rubbish, reflecting long-simmering anger about government incompetence and political corruption.

Protest organizers have called on Lebanese at home and abroad to join them in a large rally on Saturday.

Lebanese activists chant slogans during an anti-government protest in front the main Lebanese government building, downtown Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)

On Sunday, Prime Minister Tammam Salam threatened to resign as public discontent brought thousands into the streets.

The protests that initially started peacefully over the weekend descended into violence after clashes between police and protesters that wounded scores.

Lebanon's army commander General Jean Kahwaji said late on Monday the armed forces would protect any peaceful demonstrations but would not tolerate "security violators or infiltrators" who sought to sow "sedition and chaos."

Protest organizers have blamed the violence on troublemakers whom they say are connected to rival sectarian parties. The U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon on Monday urged "maximum restraint" by all sides.

The protest campaign, which has mobilized independently of the big sectarian parties that dominate Lebanese politics, blames political feuding and corruption for the failure to resolve a crisis that has left piles of uncollected garbage stinking in the scorching sun in recent weeks.

The cabinet and parliament are deadlocked, politicians have been unable to agree on a new president for more than a year while Syria's war next door has aggravated sectarian tensions and driven more than one million refugees into the country.

The trash crisis began last month when the main refuse tip for Beirut was closed, with no ready alternative. While collection has resumed in some areas, no lasting solution has been found.

[With Reuters and the Associated Press]