Lebanese Foreign Minister Resigns, Warns ‘Boat May Sink’

Lebanon’s foreign minister resigned on Monday, accusing colleagues of lacking any intention to institute meaningful reforms and warning that conflicting interests threatened to turn the country into “a failed state.”

Nassif Hitti, 67, had been in the post less than seven months, and his departure after so short a time reflects the frictions paralyzing the government. Charbel Wehbe, a presidential adviser and veteran diplomat, was appointed to succeed Hitti.

“I took part in the government to work for one boss, Lebanon,” Hitti, a former Arab League diplomat, said in a statement. “I found multiple bosses and conflicting interests in my country, and if they don’t come together for the interest of the Lebanese people and save it, the boat, God forbid, will sink.”

Lebanon is undergoing its worst financial crisis in decades, and the cabinet, backed by the militant Hezbollah group and its allies, has struggled to carry out reforms demanded by the international community as the price of a bailout. Talks with the International Monetary Fund for a $10 billion loan have stalled, and the government has appealed for aid from Gulf countries -- primarily Kuwait, Iraq and Qatar.

The onetime benefactors have been wary about channeling funds into Lebanon as they’d done in the past, especially given Iran-backed Hezbollah’s growing influence in the country. Hezbollah is classified by Gulf states and the U.S. as a terrorist group.

Hitti reportedly was upset at how the government handled its foreign policy and that he was sidelined during recent meetings with Arab officials, namely a security chief’s visit to Kuwait, according to local media. In his statement, Hitti said there was a lack of a unified vision for a “free, independent, active Lebanon and one that beams in its Arab environment and the world.”

The government is now focused on moving forward with a wide range of reforms as well as the forensic audit at the central bank after this “rapid appointment,” a spokesperson for the government said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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