Lebanon sinks deeper into crisis as Hariri abandons candidacy to form government

Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri speaks at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, Lebanon, March 18, 2021. Dalati Nohra / Handout via REUTERS

  • Hariri says he is unable to agree with President Aoun
  • Aoun says Hariri doesn’t want to discuss changes
  • Without an obvious alternative, the break could go on forever
  • The government desperately needs to save the economy
  • Analyst: Crisis on autopilot, safety at the breaking point

BEIRUT, July 15 (Reuters) – Lebanese politician Saad al-Hariri on Thursday abandoned his months-long efforts to form a new government, diminishing the chances of a government that may soon start saving the country from crisis financial.

Hariri announced his decision after meeting with President Michel Aoun, saying it was clear they could not get along, highlighting political feuds that blocked the formation of a cabinet even as Lebanon sinks deeper into the crisis.

Hariri, a former prime minister and main Sunni Muslim politician in Lebanon, was appointed in October to form a government following the resignation of Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s cabinet following the explosion in the port of Beirut.

Protesters blocked some roads near predominantly Sunni areas of Beirut after its announcement on Thursday, setting garbage and tires on fire. Army troops deployed, firing in the air to disperse protesters who bombarded the soldiers with missiles. A soldier was injured, a security source said.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Lebanese leaders appeared unable to find a solution to the crisis they had created, calling the failure to form a cabinet another incident terrible.

Arab League secretary general Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the ramifications of this step would be serious.

The World Bank has described Lebanon’s depression as one of the most severe in modern history. The currency has lost more than 90% of its value in two years; poverty has spread and there have been crippling fuel shortages, sparking growing fears of social unrest.

Hariri’s decision marks the culmination of months of conflict over ministerial posts between him and Aoun, the Christian Maronite head of state who is allied with the Iranian-backed Shia Muslim group Hezbollah.

Hariri and Aoun blamed each other.

“You can’t ask me to do all I can and there is another who doesn’t want to sacrifice anything,” Hariri told local Al Jadeed TV in an interview hours after his decision, claiming that Aoun had insisted on a blocking minority. in any cabinet and that was the main stumbling block. Read more

“GOD HELP THE COUNTRY”

Hariri said Aoun called for fundamental changes to the composition of the cabinet he presented to him on Wednesday.

“It is clear that we will not be able to come to an agreement with His Excellency the President,” Hariri said after meeting Aoun for barely 20 minutes. “This is why I apologize for forming the government and God help the country.”

In a statement, the presidency said Hariri refused to discuss any changes and offered Aoun to take an extra day to agree to the proposed composition. “What good is one more day if the door to the discussion is closed?” Aoun told him.

The presidency said Aoun would call for consultations with MPs to appoint a new prime minister as soon as possible.

Hariri later told Al Jadeed TV that his Future Movement would not nominate any candidates during the consultations.

But there is no obvious alternative for the post, which must be filled by a Sunni in Lebanon’s sectarian system.

Analysts doubt that a top Sunni politician would accept the role without Hariri’s blessing.

Diab remains the interim prime minister until a new government is formed.

‘SELF-PILOT’ CRISIS

The economic free fall is Lebanon’s worst crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.

Mohanad Hage Ali, a member of the Carnegie Middle East Center, said the security situation was approaching breaking point. “It’s a country with a history of violence, and I see this crisis on autopilot with no one in charge,” he said.

Western governments have pressured Lebanese politicians to form a government capable of reforming the corrupt state, threatening sanctions and saying financial support will not flow until reforms begin.

But barring a dramatic change in the political landscape, politicians and analysts say it now looks very difficult for a government to be formed before next year’s parliamentary elections.

Lebanon’s most influential Sunni politician, Hariri is backed by Lebanon’s Sunni religious establishment, and although his support for Sunni-led Saudi Arabia has waned in recent years, he is still backed by other states. ruled by Sunni Arabs, including Egypt.

Following the announcement, the Lebanese currency weakened further in the parallel market, where dollars changed hands to over 20,000 pounds, down from around 19,000 earlier this morning, a trader said.

Report from the Beirut office Writing by Maha El Dahan and Tom Perry Editing by Philippa Fletcher, Mark Heinrich, Frances Kerry and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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