BEIRUT: Thousands of Lebanese were stuck for hours in traffic on Wednesday after truck drivers blocked vital highways across the country to protest the closure of quarries and restrictions imposed on the movement of trucks transporting extracted sand and stones.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, who had suspended last week the work of quarries for a month pending a Cabinet assessment of their environmental impact, warned truckers of having to “resort to force" if roads remain blocked.
"We oppose blocking traffic on public roads for any reason… As of tomorrow morning, we will use force if we have to in order to prevent this,” Machnouk told a local TV station.
Truck drivers had partially blocked since the early morning hours vital highways linking the capital Beirut to the north, south and Bekaa region. Blocked roads included the Ouzai, Zahrani, Safra and Dahr al-Baidar highways.
Angry citizens stuck in traffic for hours clashed with truck drivers in several regions, according to videos that surfaced on social media later in the day.
As frustration mounted among commuters, Machnouk called for an emergency meeting at the interior ministry.
The interior minister said quarries will not be reopened unless the Cabinet decides otherwise. According to Environment Minister Tarek Khatib, the majority of quarries have failed to acquire licenses from the National Council for Quarries and Crushers that would authorize their activities.
However, head of the of the truckers' Association Chafik Kassis, threatened to announce an open strike Thursday if the government fails to cooperate and allow them to resume work.
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