Security Forces, Army Veterans Clash During Anti-Budget Protest

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Security forces clashed with a group of retired military officers on Monday during a sit-in at the Riad Al-Solh Square where protesters converged to demand that the government removes all plans that would reduce their pensions and end-of-service benefits from its 2019 austerity state budget.

Security forces used water cannons to prevent protesters from approaching the Grand Serail.

One of the veterans was transported to the hospital after sustaining an injury during the faceoff with the anti-riot police, while another one attempted to set himself on fire, the state-run National News Agency reported.

While protesters filled the nearby Riad Al-Solh Square, the government was holding another round of talks to finalize the state budget.

Following pressure, a three-member delegation was allowed into the Grand Serail to meet with Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab who assured the protesters that their issues of concern are not being discussed by the government in the first place.

The minister said that the only decision included in the draft budget is a three percent reduction on the' healthcare benefits granted to both active and retired officers.

In exchange, Bou Saab promised to cancel the paperwork fees that military personnel pay to receive healthcare.

Following the meeting, calm was restored as protesters agreed to hold a meeting during which they would decide the next steps to make.