Lebanon’s Fate Hangs in Balance as Hariri Decides Future
(Bloomberg) -- Lebanon’s premier-designate, Saad Hariri, is expected to announce on Thursday whether he will step down or stay on, a decision that could have profound implications for the country’s devastating economic crisis.
Hariri, a former prime minister and the country’s most influential Sunni leader, submitted a draft lineup of ministers on Wednesday to President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian, in what seemed to be his last attempt to reach an agreement.
Speaking to reporters after meeting with the president, Hariri -- who was nominated nine months ago -- said “the moment of truth has come and we will know.” He’s expected to announce his decision in a televised interview on Thursday evening, following an afternoon meeting with Aoun.
Local media reported that if the president rejects Hariri’s most recent proposal, then the premier-designate could resign, as he’s said he’s prepared to do if that would facilitate formation of a government. His departure would plunge the country deeper into a political crisis that’s compounded an economic and financial meltdown.
Hariri wants to form a government of non-partisan experts to manage the financial crisis that’s depleted foreign currency reserves and driven legions of Lebanese into poverty. Aoun, an ally of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group, says his position as president allows him to name Christian ministers close to him and has sought veto power in the new government.
The international community, primarily former colonial power France, has been pushing politicians to form a government quickly and begin implementing reforms that would unlock donor funds and resume stalled talks with the International Monetary Fund. Paris has threatened politicians with sanctions if delays persist.
Lebanon has been under a caretaker cabinet since August when outgoing Premier Hassan Diab resigned in the aftermath of massive explosion at Beirut’s port that killed at least 200 people and destroyed swaths of the capital. The government, which defaulted on $30 billion in international debt over a year ago, has struggled to implement reforms given its limited authority and political backing.
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