Several injured in Lebanon protests, over plunging currency

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Several protesters were injured in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Saturday in demonstrations held amid escalating tensions over the government’s decision to further slash the tumbling currency’s value.

The pound has been pegged to the dollar at 1,507 since 1997, but the country’s worst economic crisis in decades has seen its unofficial value plummet.

On Saturday, money changers told AFP news agency it was trading at 17,300-17,500 to the greenback on the black market, while some social media users said it had fallen as low as 18,000.

Dozens of angry Lebanese took to the streets of Tripoli to denounce the depreciation and “difficult living conditions”, the National News Agency (NNA) reported.

Some protesters managed to break through the gates of a branch of the central bank and enter the courtyard, the agency added, but the army prevented them from reaching the building.

Local media reports said five protesters and two Lebanese soldiers were injured in the clashes.

Demonstrators also set fire to the entrance of a government office, an AFP correspondent said.

Scattered protests also took place in the capital, Beirut, where a small number of protesters took to the streets and burned tyres, AFP reported.

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Lebanon has been roiled since 2019 by an economic crisis the World Bank says is likely to rank among the world’s worst financial crises since the mid-19th century.

The collapse has sparked outrage at Lebanon’s political class, seen as woefully corrupt and unable to tackle the country’s many difficulties.

The pound’s dizzying depreciation comes as the eastern Mediterranean country grapples with shortages of medicine and fuel which are imported using foreign currency.

The country has been without a fully functioning government since the massive blast in Beirut last year that killed more than 200 people and ravaged swaths of the capital.

The government stepped down after the disaster, but a deeply divided political class has since failed to agree on a new cabinet to replace it.

The country’s caretaker government on Friday said it was reducing badly needed fuel subsidies, raising fears that the move would lead to a sharp increase in the price of basic consumer goods.

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