Lebanon's prime minister-designate steps down in blow to French plan

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Lebanon's prime minister-designate steps down in blow to French plan

Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Moustapha Adib resigned abruptly on Saturday in a political impasse due to the formation of a government.

The move is also a blow to French President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to break a stalemate in the crisis-hit country.

Adib’s announcement just a month after his appointment under a sectarian political system further delays the prospect of the external assistance needed to save the Middle Eastern country from collapse.

Adib told reporters he would resign after it became clear that the kind of cabinet he was trying to create was “doomed”.

Meanwhile, Macron has urged Lebanese politicians to form a cabinet of bipartisan specialists who can carry out urgent reforms to get Lebanon out of a devastating economic crisis exacerbated by the August 4th explosion in the port of Beirut.

An official in the French leader’s office commented on Adib’s resignation as a “collective betrayal” of the Lebanese political parties.

Lebanon is in dire need of financial aid, but France, the United States and other international powers have refused to provide funding until serious political reforms are carried out.

The crisis is largely attributed to decades of systematic corruption and mismanagement by Lebanon’s ruling class.

However, the efforts of the France-backed Adib created several problems after the country’s main Shiite groups, Hezbollah and Amal, insisted on keeping the main treasury.

After a brief meeting with Lebanese President Aoun on Saturday, Adib said he would resign after his efforts reached an impasse.

“I apologized for continuing the government-building mission after it became clear that a cabinet would fail according to the characteristics I set,” he told reporters.

The Lebanese pound fell against the dollar after its resignation.

French President Emmanuel Macron visits the destroyed site of the explosion in the port of Beirut in August. Thibault Camus / Pool via AFP – Getty Images

Lebanon, a former French protectorate, is in the midst of the country’s worst economic crisis in its modern history. The crisis was exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and, more recently, the August 4th explosion in the port of Beirut, caused by the detonation of thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate.

The devastating explosion killed nearly 200 people, injured thousands, and caused property damage and losses running into billions.

Adib’s resignation comes a few days after Aoun himself bluntly told reporters that Lebanon would go to “hell” if a new government was not formed soon.

In a televised address, he criticized his political allies, the Shiite groups Hezbollah and Amal, for insisting on keeping the Treasury portfolio in a new government, but also criticized Adib for trying to form a government and naming cabinet positions without it to force consultation with the parliamentary blocs.

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Adib, who was ambassador to Germany prior to taking office on August 31, emerged as a candidate for prime minister after winning the support of former prime minister Saad Hariri and three other ex-prime ministers.

According to Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system, the prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim.

French President Macron has called his initiative, including a roadmap and timetable for reforms, “the last chance for this system”.

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