Anti-government protesters stand under their umbrellas wave Lebanese flags and shout slogans during a protest, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. Lebanon's president pleaded Thursday with tens of thousands of protesters who have blocked main roads and paralyzed the nation for days, urging them to back economic reforms proposed by the prime minister as the "first step" toward saving the country from economic collapse. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

The Latest: Hezbollah leader says protests exploited by pols

October 25, 2019 - 7:02 am

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on anti-government protests in Lebanon (all times local):

5:05 p.m.

Lebanon's Hezbollah leader says nationwide protests against the country's political class are being exploited by the politicians and are no longer popular or spontaneous.

Hassan Nasrallah says Friday that what started as a popular expression of anger against corruption and deepening economic crisis is being steered by some political groups who are financing it and who are as corrupt as those the protesters are against.

He says the demands are no longer those expressed by the public but are politicized, including criticizing his powerful group.

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1:05 p.m.

Hundreds of Lebanese protesters have set up tents, blocking traffic in main thoroughfares and sleeping in public squares to enforce a civil disobedience campaign and keep up the pressure on the government to step down.

Banks, universities and schools remained closed on Friday, the ninth day of nationwide protests.

Protesters briefly closed the highway linking the southern city of Sidon to Beirut, burning tires and blocking traffic. The army later removed the tires and reopened the road.

Protesters set up tents on the main highway linking eastern and western Beirut, allowing through only ambulances and army vehicles.

Despite government promises of reforms, the leaderless protesters have dug in, saying the country's incumbent officials are corrupt and must go.

The unprecedented mass protests come amid a deepening economic crisis in Lebanon.

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