Middle East

Lebanon president says PM-designate incapable of forming cabinet

Lebanon’s parliament will convene on Friday to discuss a letter written by the president saying Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri had shown he was incapable of forming a government that could pull the nation out of financial 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 on Friday to discuss it after it is read out.

The existing government has been acting in a caretaker capacity since resigning after a huge explosion in a portside warehouse tore through Beirut in August. The blast further complicated the task of rescuing an economy that has been in tailspin since late 2019.

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

Hariri, a Sunni Muslim who like his assassinated father has headed several previous governments, was asked to form another one in October, after a previous prime minister-designate failed to form a cabinet of technocrats after several weeks of trying.

Western and other donors, led by former colonial power France, have said Lebanon needs to form a viable cabinet of technocrats or specialists before they will release funds to support the crippled country. Talks with the International Monetary Fund have stumbled.

Gulf states, who in the past could be relied up to provide financial support, are now reluctant to step because of frustrations over the rising influence of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi’ite group backed by their regional rival Iran.

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

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