Middle East

Lebanon rubbish crisis: Cabinet agrees to resume waste disposal

Lebanese anti-government protesters try to remove barbed wire that blocks a road leading to the parliament building on 9 September 2015 Image copyright AP
Image caption Authorities erected large metal barricades ahead of the cabinet meeting

The Lebanese government has agreed to resume waste disposal after weeks of protests over piles of rubbish left in the streets of the capital Beirut.

Ministers decided in an emergency meeting to give local municipalities the authority to treat local waste.

Protests triggered by rotting rubbish in Beirut quickly grew into a wider attack on the perceived corruption and incompetence of politicians.

Demonstrators earlier pelted eggs at politicians' cars outside parliament.

Breaking the deadlock, Agriculture Minister Akram Shehayeb approved on Wednesday a deal that devolves waste management duties to municipalities - a central demand of the protesters - and authorises the opening of two new landfills.

The rubbish crisis began after the country's largest landfill in Naameh, south of Beirut, shut down in July with no ready alternative. The government has been unable to agree on another site until now.

As part of Wednesday's agreement, Naameh landfill will also be temporarily reopened to dispose of any rubbish that remains there.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Demonstrators mobilised again on Wednesday after weeks of protests
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Rubbish has been piling up on the streets of Beirut for weeks

But political parties meeting at an earlier "national dialogue" session could not come to agreement on how to elect a new president. The post has been vacant since May 2014, contributing to the months-long political paralysis. Another meeting was scheduled for next week.

Protesters gathered outside the parliament building as politicians arrived for the meeting, some of them pelting eggs at their vehicles shouting "thieves, thieves, get out!"

Security was heightened in anticipation of the protests, with metal barricades erected outside parliament and armoured vehicles lining the streets.

Outside the parliament building, activists pinned a large banner onto barbed wire showing the photos of the 128 members of parliament with the words in Arabic: "You have failed in everything...Go home."

Demonstrators also blockaded a major coastal road leading into Beirut.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Some of the protesters came armed with eggs...
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption ...which they threw at convoys of cars carrying politicians

Thousands of people have joined the "You Stink" campaign in recent weeks, blaming political paralysis and corruption for the government's failure to resolve the rubbish crisis.

Lebanon has been without a president for more than a year, while members of parliament have extended their own terms until 2017 after failing to agree on a law on fresh elections.

The conflict in neighbouring Syria has also exacerbated political and sectarian divisions, and resulted in the arrival of 1.1 million refugees, putting a strain on the economy and public services.

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