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Lebanon parliament backs new govt in confidence vote

Beirut (AFP) - Lebanon's parliament on Tuesday backed the cabinet and programme of incoming Prime Minister Hassan Diab in a confidence vote held despite attempts by protesters to block it.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri congratulated lawmakers who sat through an eight-hour session before 63 out of 84 MPs present voted to back an administration which now faces one of the worst crises in the county's recent history.

Protesters earlier clashed outside with security forces who used teargas and water cannon to disperse them.

The Red Cross said a total of 373 people were treated for teargas exposure and other injuries, including 45 who were hospitalised.

New premier Diab, a little-known academic and former education minister, was tasked with forming a government in December after mass rallies against official corruption and economic woes forced premier Saad Hariri to resign.

But more than three months on, angry demonstrators charge that the new cabinet fails to address their demands and won't be able to rescue Lebanon's ailing economy.

Before the session started in an area cordoned off by riot police and soldiers, protesters mobbed and threw water bottles at the tinted-glass vehicles of lawmakers in a bid to stop them reaching parliament.

But enough lawmakers reached the chamber to make the vote valid.

One member of parliament turned up with a black eye, following a brief trip to hospital after he was wounded trying to reach the chamber.

- 'Emergency rescue plan' -

Earlier, security forces had clashed with demonstrators who had hurled rocks over blast walls erected to block off roads leading to parliament.

Human Rights Watch condemned the use of force against demonstrators.

"Security forces were throwing tear gas and beating people up" said Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Demonstrators draped in Lebanese flags and chanting "no confidence" had started gathering early in the morning before parliamentarians were set to arrive for the vote. READ MORE

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