| 20 April 2024, Saturday |

Lebanon president says PM-designate incapable of forming cabinet

Lebanon’s parliament is due to convene on Friday to discuss a letter written by President Michel Aoun saying Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri had shown he was incapable of forming a cabinet that could pull the country out of its economic crisis.

The letter, seen by Reuters, follows months of political negotiations in a country where allegiances tend to follow sectarian lines. It was addressed to parliament, which will convene today to discuss it after it is read out.

The incumbent cabinet has been acting in a caretaker capacity since resigning after a massive blast in the Port of Beirut tore through the Lebanese capital last August. The explosion further complicated the task of rescuing an economy that has been in tailspin since late 2019.

President Aoun, a Maronite Christian, wrote in his letter: “It has become evident that the PM-designate is unable to form a government capable of salvation and meaningful contact with foreign financial institutions, international funds and donor countries.”

Hariri, a Sunni Muslim who like his assassinated father has headed multiple previous cabinets, was asked to form another one in October, after a previous PM-designate failed to form a government of technocrats.

Western and other donors, led by France, have underscored the need for Lebanon to form a viable government of technocrats or specialists before they will release funds to support the crippled country. Talks with the International Monetary Fund have stumbled.

Gulf countries, who in the past could be relied on to provide financial support, have now shown reluctance to step in due to frustrations over the rising influence of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi’ite group supported by their regional foe Iran.

Tensions with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab nations were stoked this week by scathing remarks about them by the Lebanese foreign minister during a TV interview. The minister quit his caretaker post shortly afterwards.

  • Reuters