Lebanon security forces fire tear gas, clash with protesters near central bank

BEIRUT, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Lebanese security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters outside the country’s central bank on Tuesday evening, clashing with dozens of people who pelted them with stones and fireworks.

Protesters threw tear gas canisters back at riot police and some young men, their faces covered, smashed bank storefronts and ATMs, a Reuters witness said.

Protests began last October against a ruling elite accused of steering Lebanon towards its worst economic crisis in decades.

Since Saad al-Hariri resigned as prime minister in late October, politicians have failed to agree a new government or a rescue plan. The Lebanese pound has weakened on the parallel market, a hard currency squeeze has driven up prices and confidence in the banking system has been battered.

“Everything we’re suffering from is because of the banks and the central bank’s policies,” Ali, a 21-year-old college student, said at Tuesday’s protest in Beirut’s Hamra district. “This is why there’s no longer any money, and prices are rising.”

He said tight controls that banks have imposed, including limiting dollar withdrawals and blocking most transfers abroad, have also fuelled outrage.

“They won’t give people their own money,” he said.

Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh has said deposits are safe. (Reporting by Ellen Francis and Issam Abdallah, Editing by Timothy Heritage)