Lebanese president vows reforms as protests engulf country

Lebanese riot policemen stand guard on a road leading to the government palace, in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. Lebanese troops moved in to open major roads in Beirut and other cities Wednesday, scuffling in some places with anti-government protesters who had blocked the streets for the past week, grinding the country to a halt. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
A Lebanese army soldier, center, is overcome by emotions during scuffles between anti-government protesters and Lebanese army soldiers during a protest in the town of Jal el-Dib north of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. Lebanese troops have moved in to open several major roads in Beirut and other cities, scuffling in some places with anti-government protesters who had blocked the streets for the past week. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Anti-government protesters scuffle with Lebanese army soldiers during a protest in the town of Jal el-Dib north of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. Lebanese troops have moved in to open several major roads in Beirut and other cities, scuffling in some places with anti-government protesters who had blocked the streets for the past week. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
A Lebanese army soldier helps an anti-government injured protester during a protest in the town of Jal el-Dib north of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. Lebanese troops have moved in to open several major roads in Beirut and other cities, scuffling in some places with anti-government protesters who had blocked the streets for the past week. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Scuffles between anti-government protesters and Lebanese army soldiers, who managed to open the main highway leading to the capital Beirut before it was closed again, during a protest in the town of Jal el-Dib north of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. Lebanese troops have opened several major roads around the country scuffling with anti-government protesters who have paralyzed Lebanon for the seventh day. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
A Lebanese flag is waved through the air as anti-government protesters demonstrate in the town of Jal el-Dib north of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. Lebanese troops have moved in to open several major roads in Beirut and other cities, scuffling in some places with anti-government protesters who had blocked the streets for the past week. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Anti-government protesters scuffle with Lebanese army soldiers during a protest in the town of Jal el-Dib north of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. Lebanese troops have moved in to open several major roads in Beirut and other cities, scuffling in some places with anti-government protesters who had blocked the streets for the past week. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
An Anti-government protester holds a lit flare during a protest, in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. Lebanese troops moved in to open major roads in Beirut and other cities Wednesday, scuffling in some places with anti-government protesters who had blocked the streets for the past week, grinding the country to a halt. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT — Lebanon's President Michel Aoun has told tens of thousands of protesters that an economic reform package put forth by the country's prime minister will be the "first step" toward saving Lebanon from economic collapse.

Aoun spoke in an address to the nation on Thursday, pledging to exert every effort to implement radical reform but also saying that change can only come from within state institutions.

He says freedom of transportation must be respected, urging demonstrators to remove roadblocks.

The comments were his first since protests over corruption and mismanagement erupted around the country a week ago.

Aoun said that the protesters' "call will not go unanswered," adding he's ready for constructive dialogue.

The protesters are taking aim at the country's leadership, calling for the government and the president to resign.

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