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Lebanese presidency to convene consultations on Monday to designate new PM

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The Lebanese presidency will convene consultations with parliamentary blocs on Monday to designate a new prime minister, the presidency said, after the government quit earlier this month following the catastrophic explosion at Beirut port.

The president is required to designate the candidate with the greatest level of support among MPs.

Sunni politician Saad al-Hariri is so far the only serious name floated for the post. But he said earlier this week he was not a candidate after several major parties said they did not support his return to the job.

Earlier, two people were killed and at least three wounded in clashes in a town south of Beirut, the Lebanese capital, on Thursday evening, the state news agency and a security source said, as several political parties urged calm.

A policeman stands in front of a building that was burned out after the night before during clashes between Sunni Arab tribes and followers of the Shiite Islamic parties of Hezbollah and Amal Movement in the Khaldeh area, on the outskirts of Beirut, Lebanon, 28 August 2020. The conflict occurred when the Sunnis prevented Hezbollah and Amal Movement supporters from the posting of a banner of Salim Ayyash, whom an international court in recently sentenced in absentia for allegedly participating on 14 February 2005 attack that took the life of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 other people. EPA-EFE/WAEL HAMZEH

The Lebanese army said on its Twitter account that it had deployed units to Khaldeh town to “control the situation” and restore calm.

The Lebanese army and the security source said gunfire was exchanged. Local media showed footage of heavy gunfire and fires blazing in buildings in the area.

The confrontation erupted after a row a few days ago over a banner marking the Shi’ite Muslim Ashoura religious ritual in an area where both Shi’ites and Sunnis reside, the security source, a second official and a senior official said. The Lebanese army also cited a dispute over the banner in their tweeted statement.

Several hours following the initial clashes, the senior official said tensions had calmed down. The Lebanese army said it had arrested four people in connection with the clashes.

A youth walks next to a burnt car, which was destroyed the night before during clashes between Sunni Arab tribes and followers of the Shiite Islamic parties of Hezbollah and Amal Movement at the Khaldeh highway, on the outskirts of Beirut, Lebanon, 28 August 2020. EPA-EFE/WAEL HAMZEH

Several political parties voiced concern over the incident as it continued to unfold, reflecting a country on edge amid fears it could escalate and compound Lebanon’s multiple crises amid a political vacuum.

Major General Abbas Ibrahim, a top Lebanese security official, called Shi’ite parties Hezbollah and Amal and Sunni politician Saad al-Hariri to calm the situation, the senior official said.

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who has followers and influence in the Khaldeh area, said the highway to the south and the security of citizens in the area were paramount.

“It is forbidden for any party political or sectarian side to mess with the road and the region that is for everyone,” he wrote on Twitter.

Former prime minister Saad al-Hariri’s Future Movement, which counts among its followers many of the Arab Sunni Muslims in Khaldeh, issued a statement urging them to show restraint.

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