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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 July, 2004, 17:15 GMT 18:15 UK
Lebanese mobile users in revolt
Mobile phone key pad
A quarter of mobile users are said to have switched off
Thousands of Lebanese mobile phone users have turned off their handsets for 24 hours in protest at the high cost of calls.

At about 20 cents (11p) a minute, mobile calls in Lebanon are amongst the most expensive in the region.

Observers say the government has set high rates in the lucrative mobile phone sector to help pay off its debts.

"All these bills are taking a toll on us," said Issam Raid, one of those taking part in the mass switch-off.

More protests

About a quarter of users had reportedly turned off their mobiles by lunchtime on Thursday.

The mass switch-off was organised by the Consumers Lebanon Association and was backed by unions and other groups.

The protesters are demanding that mobile phone owners be charged for seconds used instead of minutes, that rates in the evenings be cut and that monthly fees are abolished.

The Daily Star newspaper has reported that a cost of a 10-minute call in Lebanon is $2.42, whereas in Jordan the rate is $1.32 and in Cyprus less than $1.

Organisers say that if everyone took part then the government would lose $2.8m for the day - there are an estimated 800,000 mobile phone users in Lebanon.

They have said there will be more protests if the government fails to take action.

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