Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati promised the Lebanese people in his first interview after being tasked with forming a government to “tell the truth about everything.”
Mikati received in the binding parliamentary consultation on Monday 72 votes out of a possible 118, replacing Saad Hariri, who resigned as PM-designate on July 15 after nine months of failed negotiations with President Michel Aoun to form a government.
In an exclusive interview with Nayla Tueni, editor-in-chief of Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar, Mikati said that “Hariri’s patriotic feeling prompted him to step down.” He also stated that “there are international and American guarantees that Lebanon will not collapse.”
Mikati said that he wants “to form a government of specialists”, and will implement a previously proposed French initiative that is “capable of helping Lebanon.”
He stressed the need to address the electricity problem, and fuel outages recently which is threatening the country of total darkness.
The country is also experiencing an ongoing financial meltodwn, during which the currency has lost more than 95 percent of its value. Mikati said that “banks are experiencing difficulties but work can be done to solve these hurdles.”
As for the challenge of forming a new government, almost a year after the previous authority resigned in the aftermath of the Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut’s port, Mikati said: “President Michel Aoun is betting on the government and wants to save the country. I told him that I will visit Baabda Palace as soon as (possible) to start forming the government.”
He added: “I have been designated to continue (this task) and there is light at the end of the tunnel. I can carry out this task.”
“I know my limits in the relationship between Hezbollah and Iran. We are with the Arab option, and we do not want Lebanon to be a conduit for conspiracy against any Arab country.”
Two Christian parliamentary groups refused to nominate Mikati during the consultations, but he said he “understands their position and it is not personal.” He added that his relationship with them “is excellent and is based on respect.” He pointed out that the country is on the cusp of parliamentary elections and predicted that the groups “will support me from the outside because they are looking forward to four years in parliament.”
Talking about the Beirut explosion, Mikati said it “is a disaster that requires great efforts to be dealt with. We want to know the truth about who brought in the ammonium nitrate.” It was stored at the port without proper safety precautions and caused the disaster. He said that Judge Tarek Bitar, who is leading the official investigation into the blast, “is a man of conscience.”
In 2019 Mikati faced corruption charges relating to housing loans, but said he “did not commit any infringements.”
A businessman who does not represent a particular political party or bloc, Mikati has served as PM on two previous occasions: on a caretaker basis for three months in 2005 and from June 2011 until February 2014.