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The UN Security Council on Monday called for “the peaceful character of the protests” in Lebanon to be upheld after overnight attacks by Hezbollah and Amal supporters on anti-government demonstrators.

Members “called on all actors to conduct intensive national dialogue and to maintain the peaceful character of the protests by avoiding violence and respecting the right to peaceful assembly in protest,” the Council said in a statement approved unanimously at the end of a regular council meeting on Lebanon.

Lebanon has faced five weeks of protests, fuelled by anger at corruption among sectarian politicians who have governed for decades. Demonstrators want to see the entire ruling class gone from power.

Despite the unprecedented protests, which led to the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Oct. 29 and exacerbated the economic crisis, deeply divided politicians have yet to agree on a new government.

This has kept anti-government protesters on the streets, prompting Hezbollah and Amal supporters on several occasions to try to reopen roads blocked by the demonstrators.

The latest clashes took place after midnight Sunday. 

Adding to tensions, two people were killed when their car slammed into a traffic barrier and burst into flames on a coastal road in the early hours of Monday, security sources said.

The crash sparked debate on social media about whether protest tactics, which have often included road blockades, had gone too far, although it was not immediately clear who set up the barrier that caused the accident.

A video on social media apparently taken from a traffic camera showed a car smashing through a metal barricade in the center of the road and lighting on fire. 

Meanwhile, the Lebanese Economic Bodies group, which includes industrialists and bankers, called for the closure of private institutions from Thursday to Saturday to push major parties to form a new government and avert further economic damage.

“The political forces have not assumed their national responsibilities and have not shown the seriousness necessary to produce solutions to the current crisis,” it said.

Banks reopened last week after mostly being shut since unrest began on Oct. 17. Fearing capital flight and amid a hard currency shortage, commercial banks have placed tight restrictions on withdrawals and transfers abroad. 

ASHARQ ALAWSAT

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