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An anti-government protester chants slogans as she holds up a Lebanese flag joining others to block a road during a protest against the political leadership they blame for the economic and financial crisis, in Beirut on June 11. Image Credit: AP

Beirut: Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab blamed corrupt actors opposed to his government for rumours about a sharp depreciation in the pound that sparked protests earlier this week.

The premier said in a televised address on Saturday that those in power conspired against the cabinet to spread false information about a plunge in the nation’s currency. Lebanon’s economy is mired in its worst crisis in decades thanks to the depreciating pound.

“They injected lies and rumours and deepened the pound’s crisis and created a bigger one and pushed people into the streets,” the premier said. The unnamed people sought to “prevent the government from unveiling their temple of corruption.”

Unrest mounted earlier this week after rumours spread that the local currency depreciated to over 6,000 per US dollar on the black market. The pricing at licensed exchange bureaus remained around 4,000. Diab and his government took a series of measures to stem the rapid decline including injecting dollars into the economy to stabilize the pound.

After defaulting on $30 billion of Eurobonds in March amid the country’s worsening crisis, Diab’s government is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for a $10 billion programme that would unlock other donor funds. Authorities estimate that lenders and the central bank have incurred billions of dollars in losses as dollar inflows dwindled and officials failed to implement needed reforms.

Diab said his government would continue its work to salvage and rescue the country, saying the corrupt “won’t give up easily.”