Politics

Lebanon PM designate bids to form crisis cabinet within two weeks

By AFP

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Lebanon's newly-appointed Prime Minister Mustapha Adib visits Beirut's badly-hit Gemmayzeh neighbourhood, on August 31st. [AFP]

Lebanon's prime minister designate started talks Wednesday (September 2nd) on forming a crisis government within two weeks to begin enacting desperately needed reforms.

Government formation is usually a drawn-out process in multi-confessional Lebanon, where a complex political system seeks to share power between different religious groups.

But a traumatic explosion at Beirut port last month has created intense pressure for swift reforms to lift the country out of its worst economic crisis in decades.

The last government, only in power since the start of the year, resigned in the wake of the August 4th explosion that killed at least 188, wounded thousands and laid waste to entire districts of the capital.

With the clock ticking, prime minister designate Mustapha Adib was to meet the parliament speaker, former prime ministers and parliamentary bloc representatives.

Lebanon lawmakers rushed to approve the nomination of the little-known 48-year-old diplomat Monday on the eve of a high-profile visit by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Visiting to mark the centenary of the former French protectorate, Macron said Tuesday all sides had pledged to help Adib form a cabinet within two weeks.

He promised to host two conferences in Paris in the second half of October -- one to help drum up aid and the other to discuss political reform.

And he said he would be back in Lebanon in December for a progress report.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, David Schenker, was due in Lebanon Wednesday to "urge Lebanese leaders to implement reforms that respond to the Lebanese people's desire for transparency, accountability, and a government free of corruption", the embassy said.

Meeting with Hizbullah

Macron met Tuesday with top Lebanese politicians, while clashes erupted in Beirut between security forces and protestors rejecting the new prime minister.

Representatives of Hizbullah, designated by the US as a terrorist group, were among those who met Macron on Tuesday.

Macron said Hizbullah, which is part of a bloc that has a majority in parliament, "is probably in parliament because of intimidation but also because other forces have failed to run the country well", but noted it also had a "popular base".

The issue of the militia's disarmament would eventually need to be broached, he said, though not immediately.

"This is exactly the discussion we had an hour ago... It should not be a taboo," he said.

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