Middle East

Beirut protestors call for fall of government on second day of demonstrations

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Lebanese police fired tear gas to try to disperse rock-throwing protesters blocking a road near parliament in Beirut on Sunday in a second day of anti-government demonstrations triggered by last week's devastating explosion.

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Fire broke out at an entrance to Parliament Square as demonstrators tried to break into a cordoned-off area, TV footage showed. Protesters also broke into the housing and transport ministry offices.

Tuesday's blast of more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate killed 158 people and injured more than 6,000, compounding months of political and economic collapse and prompting furious calls for the government to quit.

Riot police wearing body armour and carrying batons clashed with demonstrators as thousands converged on Parliament Square and nearby Martyrs' Square, a Reuters correspondent said.

"We gave these leaders so many chances to help us and they always failed. We want them all out, especially Hezbollah, because it's a militia and just intimidates people with its weapons," Walid Jamal, an unemployed demonstrator, said, referring to the country's most influential Iran-backed armed grouping that has ministers in the government.

Lebanon's top Christian Maronite cleric, Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai, said the cabinet should resign as it cannot "change the way it governs".

"The resignation of an MP or a minister is not enough … the whole government should resign as it is unable to help the country recover," he said in his Sunday sermon.

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