Demonstrations flare in northern city of Tripoli over the deepening political and economic crisis, sparking clashes with army and leaving at least 19 people wounded.

Supporters of PM-designate Saad Hariri, who stepped down, throw stones against an armoured personnel carrier of Lebanese army, in Beirut on July 15, 2021.
Supporters of PM-designate Saad Hariri, who stepped down, throw stones against an armoured personnel carrier of Lebanese army, in Beirut on July 15, 2021. (AP)

Angry protests have broken out in Lebanon after premier-designate Saad Hariri failed to form a new government, and just as France prepares to host an aid conference on the first anniversary of the country's port blast.

Protests on Friday flared in the northern city of Tripoli over the deepening political and economic crisis, sparking clashes with the army that the Lebanese Red Cross said left at least 19 people wounded.

The army said young men had lobbed a hand grenade towards its forces, wounding five soldiers.

In a separate statement, it said another 10 soldiers where wounded by stones thrown by protesters.

Hariri's exit on Thursday comes amid a financial collapse branded by the World Bank as one of the planet's worst since the 19th century.

READ MORE: Several wounded in scuffles as Lebanon pound plumbs fresh lows

France aid conference

Former colonial power France, which has spearheaded international efforts to lift Lebanon out of crisis, said on Friday it would host an aid conference on August 4 to "respond to the needs of the Lebanese, whose situation is deteriorating every day".

The date coincides with the first anniversary of a vast explosion at Beirut port that killed more than 200 people and levelled swathes of the capital.

Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan said on Friday the government would scrap subsidies on medicines costing less than $8 at the official rate (12,000 Lebanese pounds) to shore up foreign currency reserves.

READ MORE: Lebanon medicine importers warn of drug supply shortages amid cash crunch

Political wrangling

World powers have pledged millions of dollars in humanitarian aid since last year's port blast, but conditioned it on Lebanon installing a government capable of tackling corruption.

Even as international pressure mounted, with threats of European Union sanctions against them, Lebanese politicians' squabbling has repeatedly thwarted efforts to form a government.

The French Foreign Ministry said Hariri's failure "confirms the political deadlock which Lebanese leaders have deliberately continued for months, even as Lebanon sinks into unprecedented economic and social crisis."

After nine months of deliberations with President Michel Aoun over a cabinet, Hariri threw in the towel on Thursday, accusing Aoun of seeking a "blocking third" of seats for his supporters  — effectively a veto.

"If I formed the government that Michel Aoun wanted ... I wouldn't have been able to run the country, because this isn't a cabinet I can work with," Hariri told Lebanon's Al Jadeed TV after he stepped down.

READ MORE: Lebanon PM-designate Hariri steps down, fails to form government 

Aoun, who has denied the accusations, will now have to call on parliament to pick a new premier-designate, who will be tasked with assembling another cabinet.

That in turn will have to be approved by the president and political factions.

'Worsening crisis is inevitable'

This takes the political process back to square one, prompting Lebanese media to warn of many more months of drift, a delay the country can ill afford.

"With Hariri out, a worsening crisis is inevitable," said Lebanon's French-language daily L'Orient-Le Jour.

With cabinet and parliamentary seats distributed on confessional lines, negotiations will be further complicated by the exit of Hariri, a key figure among the country's Sunni Muslims.

Media reports have circulated the name of former premier Najib Mikati, last in power in 2014, as a likely replacement.

But Hariri has already said he would not endorse Mikati's candidacy.

READ MORE: EU prepare to hit Lebanon's leaders with sanctions over political crisis 


Hariri, who has previously led three governments in Lebanon, is the second candidate to fail at forming a government in less than a year.

He had been nominated prime minister-designate in October 2020 to replace Mustapha Adib, a relatively unknown diplomat.

Adib had been nominated just weeks after the port explosion, but quit less than a month later over resistance to his proposed line up.

Outgoing prime minister Hassan Diab, who resigned in the wake of the August 4 explosion, has stayed on in a caretaker capacity until political leaders can agree on a new premier.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that Lebanon's "political class has squandered the last nine months".

French top diplomat Jean-Yves Le Drian accused political leaders of "cynical self-destruction".

The Lebanese pound, officially pegged at 1,507 to the dollar, plunged to new lows on the black market following Hariri's announcement, selling for more than 22,000 to the greenback.

READ MORE: Lebanon’s Diab warns country is on brink of 'social explosion,’ seeks help

Source: AFP