French FM Jean-Yves Le Drian (left) meets with Lebanese President Michel Aoun in Baabda, Beirut, on Thursday. AP
Tweeting ahead of his arrival, Jean-Yves Le Drian said French travel restrictions on Lebanese officials suspected of corruption or hindering the formation of a new Cabinet were "just the start.”
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France has been trying to force change on Lebanon's ruling class, whose corruption and mismanagement has driven the tiny country into the ground and pushed it to the verge of bankruptcy. The country is experiencing the worst economic and financial crisis of its modern history. The local currency has lost 85% of its value against the dollar in recent months while banks imposed informal controls on transfers and withdrawals.
The economic crisis was made worse by a massive explosion at Beirut’s port last summer, which destroyed the facility and surrounding neighborhoods. The government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab stepped down in the wake of the explosion, and former premier Saad Hariri was tasked with forming a new one.
Jean-Yves Le Drian arrives to meet with Lebanon's President Michel Aoun in Baabda, Lebanon. Reuters
Hariri has not been able to form a Cabinet amid deep disagreements between him and President Michel Aoun, who has no legal recourse to fire him. The deadlock is accelerating the country's meltdown.
"I will be in Lebanon tomorrow with a message of great firmness to political leaders and a message of our complete solidarity to the Lebanese,” Le Drian posted Thursday. "Firmness in the face of those hindering the formation of a government: we have taken national action, and this is just the start.”
Last week, Le Drian said France will start to put in place measures restricting access to French territory for Lebanese officials implicated in the political blockage or corruption.
He did not name any of those targeted or say how many. The Foreign Ministry did not release details of what the restrictions entail.
The move stops short of sanctions for now, but Le Drian said more could come later.
Last year, French President Emmanuel Macron proposed a roadmap to break the political stalemate in the former French protectorate. Macron, who has previously said he is "ashamed” of Lebanese politicians, has been pressing for a Cabinet made up of non-partisan specialists who can work on urgent reforms to extract Lebanon from its multiple crises.
Those efforts have led nowhere as Lebanese top officials continue to bicker about the shape and size of a new Cabinet, and who chooses which ministers.
At a closed council meeting Tuesday on the mission known as UNIFIL, whose mandate is up for renewal at the end of the month, US Ambassador Kelly Craft stressed the need for a new mandate.
Angry Lebanese blocked main roads on Friday as petrol stations across the country went on strike for the second day in a row, an AFP photographer and local media said.
In a country which once boasted the nickname "Switzerland of the Middle East" for its thriving banking sector before financial crisis hit in 2019, the chronic shortage of the staple of the Lebanese diet has been hard to take.
Caretaker Information Minister Amir Mir confirmed Elahi's arrest, saying he was in his vehicle and "trying to flee" when he was arrested.
Social media users reacted strongly to the video and the villagers' predicament with comments slamming the concerned authorities for reneging on their promise to provide good rural connectivity.
The marriage of Crown Prince Hussein, 28, and Saudi architect Rajwa Al Saif, 29, drew a star-studded guest list including Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, as well as US First Lady Jill Biden.
The authorities said that after the issuance of the visit visa, the tourist must enter the country within 60 days from the date of issuance, and the validity of the entry permit will be 30 days or 60 days, depending on the visa sought.