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Lebanon Paralyzed by First General Strike in 35 Years

November 06, 1987|From Times Wire Services

BEIRUT — Lebanon was virtually shut down Thursday by the first general strike in 35 years, a nationwide walkout against war and the nation's most severe economic crisis since it gained independence from France 44 years ago.

Beirut's airport and seaport came to a standstill, and schools, businesses, shops, banks, restaurants and government offices closed in the capital.

Only bakeries, pharmacies and hospitals were exempted from the shutdown, called by the General Confederation of Labor Unions. And only physicians and journalists were allowed to move around the city in cars, the federation said.

Beirut's 13 daily newspapers announced a two-day shutdown in support of the strike.

'The Last Chance'

"This is the last chance for the authorities to do something," said Antoine Bechara, head of the 250,000-strong federation. "If the strike doesn't work, we are a dying nation."

He added: "The strike is to stop the war and end the suffering of the people. We will not go back on it until the situation improves."

But some Lebanese merchants said they will reopen their businesses after a token shutdown.

"The strike will lead us nowhere. Each side blames the other for the economic problem. I can't keep my shop closed for long," said grocer Musbah Naqib. "I'll open up on Monday whatever the unions decide."

Police said the strike also brought to a standstill other Lebanese cities and towns. Work stopped at half a dozen seaports run by rival militias along Lebanon's 132-mile-long Mediterranean coastline.

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