U.S. says it supports Lebanese people's call for action for economic reform

Lebanese people are "rightfully angered" with their government over its refusal to tackle corruption and Washington supports their right to demonstrate peacefully, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Wednesday.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Lebanon have flooded the streets for nearly a week, in an unprecedented wave of demonstrations, furious at a political class they accuse of pushing the economy to the point of collapse.

"The people in Lebanon are frustrated. The crowds that are coming out are enormous...and people want to see action. The United States government supports their call for action for reform for fighting corruption," a senior State Department official said.

"This is not a new problem. The economic crisis that Lebanon is currently facing was a slow train coming," the official said.

Lebanese army troops scuffled with demonstrators on Wednesday as they struggled to unblock main roads. Banks were closed for a fifth working day and schools remained shut. Many highways were impassable.

Sources said Lebanese leaders are discussing a possible government reshuffle to defuse the protests. Lebanon's highest Christian Maronite authority and a prominent Druze politician threw their weight behind the groundswell for change, calling for qualified technocrats to be included in any government shake-up.
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