Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib speaks at the presidential palace in Baabda.
Lebanon’s prime minister-designate Mustapha Adib resigned on Saturday amid a political impasse over government formation, dealing a blow to French President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to break a dangerous stalemate in the crisis-hit country.
The announcement by Adib nearly a month after he was appointed to the job came following a meeting with President Michel Aoun, after which he told reporters he was stepping down.
The French leader has been pressing Lebanese politicians to form a Cabinet made up of independent specialists who can work on enacting urgent reforms to extricate Lebanon from a devastating economic and financial crisis worsened by the Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut port.
But efforts by the French-supported Adib have hit multiple snags, after the country’s main Shiite groups, Hezbollah and Amal, insisted on retaining hold of the key Finance Ministry. Their insistence emerged after the US administration slapped sanctions on two senior politicians close to Hezbollah, including the ex-finance minister.
The two groups also insisted on naming the Shiite ministers in the new Cabinet and objected to the manner in which Adib was forming the government, without consulting them.
After a short meeting with Aoun on Saturday, Adib said he was stepping down because the kind of Cabinet that he wanted to form "was bound to fail” and he was keen on protecting national unity.
Lebanon, a former French protectorate, is mired in the country’s worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history. It defaulted on paying back its debt for the first time ever in March, and the local currency has collapsed, leading to hyperinflation and soaring poverty and unemployment.
The crisis has been worsened by the Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut’s port caused by the detonation of thousands of tonnes of ammonium nitrates. It killed nearly 200 people, injured thousands and caused losses worth billions of dollars.
The country is in desperate need of financial assistance but France and other international powers have refused to provide aid before serious reforms are made. The crisis is largely blamed on decades of systematic corruption and mismanagement by Lebanon’s ruling class.
The French leader has described his initiative, which includes a roadmap and a timetable for reforms, as "the last chance for this system.”
Adib's resignation comes a few days after Aoun himself bluntly told reporters that Lebanon would be going to "hell” if a new government was not formed soon.
In a televised address, he criticised his political allies, the Shiite groups Hezbollah and Amal, for insisting on holding on to the Finance Ministry portfolio in any new government, but also criticised Adib for attempting to form a government and imposing names for Cabinet positions without consulting the parliamentary blocs.
Rampant corruption has also eroded the country's infrastructure and basic services.
Finance minister Ghazi Wazni, named minister in a new cabinet formed on Tuesday, said the financing was intended to cover the country's needs for one year and reduce a run on the dollar.
A huge fire raged in Beirut port on Thursday, AFP correspondents said, sparking alarm among Lebanese still reeling from a deadly dockside explosion that disfigured the capital last month.
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