BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon's interior minister said Friday he is "worried" about a mass protest against Lebanon's government planned for this weekend but said he will strive to guarantee the safety of demonstrators.
Two rallies in the capital, Beirut, last weekend drew up to 20,000 people, and dozens were hurt in clashes between protesters and security forces at the time. Another huge protest is planned for Saturday.
The protests have been driven by anger over garbage piling up on the streets of Beirut, following the closure of a main landfill. The government's failure to resolve the crisis has evolved into wider protests against a political class that has dominated Lebanon since the end of the country's civil war in 1990 and is widely seen as dysfunctional.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Nohad Machnouk acknowledged there were "mistakes" that led to the excessive use of force. He said an investigation was under way.
"I am worried about tomorrow, and we will exert every effort to guarantee the safety of protesters and safety of Lebanese in general," Machnouk said.
He said the ministry was coordinating with the army to protect protesters "regardless of their political affiliation or the harsh words they will say (against us). This is their right," he said.
Machnouk spoke shortly before a small group of demonstrators headed to the Interior Ministry in Beirut, protesting police brutality.
Organizers have rallied support under the slogan, "You Stink" — a reference to the political establishment.
The campaigners say they seek to end a patronage system that divvies up power among Lebanon's multiple communities — Shiites, Sunnis, Christians, Druze and more. That system has been the center of Lebanese politics for decades and helped fuel the 15-year civil war.
Critics say politicians spend more time cultivating their sectarian fiefdoms than actually governing.