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The Latest: Tens of thousands protest in Lebanese capital

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on anti-government protests in Lebanon (all times local):

6:45 p.m.

Tens of thousands of Lebanese have packed into central Beirut for the biggest anti-government demonstration since supporters of the militant Hezbollah group rampaged through their main protest site last week.

The demonstration on Sunday came hours after a much smaller rally of thousands was held in support of Lebanon’s president and foreign minister, two of the main targets of the anti-government protests, which first erupted Oct. 17.

The protesters called for a general strike Monday and for the government to speed up the political transition following Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s resignation last week.

The protesters are calling for sweeping changes to the political system established after the 1975-1990 civil war. President Michel Aoun, his son-in-law, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, and other political leaders have refused the protesters’ demands to resign. Aoun and Bassil are members of a Christian party allied with the Iran-backed Hezbollah, which has accused foreign powers of manipulating the protests.

Hundreds of Hezbollah supporters rampaged through the main protest site on Tuesday, tearing down tents and setting them on fire. Hariri resigned hours later.

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1:20 p.m.

Thousands of people are marching to show their support for Lebanon’s president and his proposed political reforms.

The demonstration near Michel Aoun’s presidential palace in southeastern Beirut comes after more than two weeks of widespread anti-government demonstrations.

Another such anti-government protest is scheduled for later Sunday in central Beirut.

These demonstrations have united people from the country’s many religious sects and factions against the political class.

Those leaders have ruled Lebanon since the 1975-1990 civil war, and are widely seen as having tanked the economy.

Aoun, one of the main targets of the protesters’ anger, gave a speech late Thursday proposing that Lebanon should move away from the decades-old sectarian political system. He said the country is at a “dangerous crossroads.”

Associated Press

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