Lebanon stops migrant boat carrying 34 Syrian refugees

A Lebanese anti-government protester holds up a sign reading "all means all, including harassers", during a demonstration march on the former demarcation line separating Beirut. (AFP Photo)

Lebanon's army has said that it stopped a boat carrying 34 Syrian refugees who were trying to leave the protest-hit country.

It stopped the boat near the coast of the northern city of Tripoli on Saturday, it said in a statement on Sunday.

The army said it arrested a Lebanese citizen who was trying to smuggle them out of the country, adding that there were five Lebanese on board the vessel.

The boat's final destination was not immediately clear.

Lebanon, a small Mediterranean country of some 4.5 million people, says it costs around 1.5 million Syrian refugees.

Those escaping Lebanon by boat have often tried to cross into Europe through Turkey or Cyprus, some 100 km away.

In October, Lebanon said it agreed to work with Cyprus to prevent migrants from reaching its shores.

Lebanon has been rocked by unprecedented anti-government protests since October 17.

The government resigned two weeks after demonstrations started, bowing to popular pressure.

The country's deeply divided political parties have yet to form a new one. 

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