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Trash crisis again sparks clashes in Beirut

BEIRUT - Lebanese riot police sprayed thousands of protesters with water cannons and hurled stones at them Sunday in downtown Beirut, marking the second day mass demonstrations against an ongoing trash crisis have become violence.

The violence came hours after Prime Minister Tammam Salam hinted he might step down following violent protests Saturday that injured more than 100 people.

The demonstrations, the largest in years to shake tiny Lebanon, seek to upend what protesters see as a corrupt and dysfunctional political system that has no functional Cabinet or parliament, nor a president for more than a year.

Sunday's clashes broke out shortly before sunset when angry protesters tried to break through barbed wire leading to the government's headquarters. Police beat back protesters with clubs and water cannons, occasionally hurling stones at protesters who threw rocks and water bottles.

At least two riot police officers were injured and whisked away by their colleagues. Ambulances carried away at least five injured protesters from Riad Solh Square in central Beirut, where the demonstrators had been gathering since the morning.

The protests started over garbage piling up on the streets after the capital's main landfill was closed a month ago. An online group calling itself "You Stink!" and other civil society groups organized the rallies, calling on Lebanese to join them in a revolt against the corrupt system.

Protesters now demand that the country's top politicians resign, saying they are not fit to rule to country. Salam, Lebanon's prime minister, said in a news conference earlier Sunday that if this Thursday's Cabinet meeting is not productive, "then there is no need for the council of ministers."

Lebanon has a sectarian power-sharing system that ensures equal representation between the country's main religious sects. The arrangement often leads to complete paralysis.

It was not clear why Salam would hint about resignation. A resignation by Salam would risk plunging the country into further chaos.

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