BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun called on all concerned stakeholders to ensure civil peace during the national meeting Thursday as Lebanon's local currency slipped to record lows.
The "national unity meeting," which kicked off despite a large number of boycotts, sought to ease tensions within the small Mediterranean country.
“There are those who exploit the anger of the people and their legitimate demands in order to generate violence and chaos," Aoun said, alluding to recent protest which turned violent in Beirut and Tripoli.
"In times of major crises, we must all rise to the national level. The stability of security is not only a basis but rather a condition for political, economic, social, financial and monetary stability," Aoun said.
He reiterated the need to stand up "against strife and religious and sectarian conflict as Lebanon goes through complex crises; political, economic, financial and social."
The meeting, which sought to bolster "civil peace," was boycotted by former Prime Ministers Saad Hariri, Najib Mikati, Fouad Siniora and Tammam Salam. Fellow Christian leaders also snubbed Aoun, including Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, Marada Movement head Sleiman Frangieh, Kataeb Party leader Sami Gemayel and former President Emile Lahoud.
“We will not participate in a meeting whose aim is to throw dust in our eyes,” Geagea said in a televised news conference Wednesday adding that "Lebanese people are at odds with the authorities.”
Lebanon’s currency continued its downward spiral Thursday, reaching a new low before the dollar and raising such alarm that it prompted a powerful politician to call for a state of “financial emergency.”
The Lebanese pound was reportedly selling at 7,000 to the dollar, losing more than 75% of its value. The pound had been pegged at 1,500 to the dollar since 1997.
Despite government efforts to manage the currency crash — including injecting dollars into the market and setting a higher rate for specific transactions — chaos prevailed and the parallel currency market continued to thrive.
The Baabda meeting was attended by the government's main backers, which include Speaker Nabih Berri, Vice-Speaker Elie Ferzli, Free Patriotic Movement head Gebran Bassil, the leader of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc Mohammad Raad, Mount Lebanon Unity bloc head Talal Arslan among others.
-- With AP
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