Saad Hariri
Saad Hariri Reuters

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Friday gave his government three days to back key reforms, after protests against the political elite and austerity measures rocked the country for a second day.

"I'm setting a very short deadline" of 72 hours, Hariri said in a televised address as thousands filled the streets of central Beirut, according to the AFP news agency.

"Either our partners in the coalition government give a clear, decisive and final response to convince me, the Lebanese people and the international community... that everyone has decided on reforms, stopping waste and corruption, or I will have something else to say," he added.

Lebanon, which has one of the world's highest debt to gross domestic product ratios, passed an austerity budget in July.

Hariri’s comments come a day after hundreds took to the streets across Lebanon to protest the government’s decision to tax calls made on messaging applications such as WhatsApp.

The move would have seen a 20-cent daily fee being charged for messaging app users. However, the tax was later scrapped.

"The anger is certainly caused by living conditions, but it also stems from political behavior," Hariri said Friday, according to AFP.

The Prime Minister added that he had spent years trying to find "real solutions" to problems ailing the country before the protests erupted.

"For months we have been waiting for our partners in the country and the government to go forward with the solution that we decided on... but there is no procrastination they haven't tried," he said.

Growth in Lebanon has plummeted in the wake of repeated political deadlocks in recent years, compounded by the impact of eight years of war in neighboring Syria.

The Syrian civil war has spilled over into Lebanon mainly due to Hezbollah’s involvement in the fighting. Hezbollah's strongholds have come under repeated bomb attacks over its involvement in the Syrian conflict.

Politically, a new government headed by Hariri was formed in February following a nine-month deadlock.

Hezbollah, which has a strong political presence in Lebanon, is a major part of Hariri’s cabinet, after the group and its allies gained more than half the seats of the 128-member Lebanese parliament in the election last May.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)

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