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Lebanon’s Safadi emerges as PM choice for three parties

Demonstrators gather to stage a protest against the government's policy on easing the economical crisis in Beirut, Lebanon on October 22, 2019 [Mahmut Geldi / Anadolu Agency]
Demonstrators gather to stage a protest against the government's policy on easing the economical crisis in Beirut, Lebanon on 22 October 2019 [Mahmut Geldi/Anadolu Agency]

Three major Lebanese parties agreed to nominate Mohammad Safadi, a former finance minister, to become prime minister, three sources familiar with the situation said, suggesting progress towards a new government at a time of acute economic crisis, reports Reuters.

Saad al-Hariri quit as prime minister on October 29 in the face of an unprecedented wave of protests against ruling politicians who are blamed for rampant state corruption and steering Lebanon into its worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.

The consensus on Safadi emerged in a meeting late on Thursday between Hariri, a leading Sunni politician aligned with Western and Gulf states, and representatives of the Iran-backed Shia group Hezbollah and its Shia ally Amal.

The news was first reported by Lebanese broadcasters LBCI and MTV.

A source familiar with the meeting said Hariri had expressed no objections to Safadi’s nomination, adding that MPs from Hariri’s Future Movement would nominate Safadi in a formal process expected to begin soon.

A second source, a senior figure close to Amal and Hezbollah, said agreement in principle on Safadi’s nomination had emerged at the meeting.

There was no official confirmation from the parties or Safadi.

Read: Aoun says Lebanese gov’t must include politicians, urges protesters to go home

Safadi, 75, is a prominent businessman and former member of parliament from the predominantly Sunni city of Tripoli. He previously served as finance minister and minister of economy and trade.

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

The next government will face huge challenges.

It must win international financial support seen as critical to alleviating the economic crisis, while addressing the challenge posed by a nationwide protest movement that wants to see the old elite gone from power.

Lebanon’s long-brewing economic crisis, rooted in years of state waste, corruption and mismanagement, has deepened since the protests began. Banks have imposed controls on transfers abroad and US dollar withdrawals.

Read: Ex-Hezbollah leader slams Iran Supreme Leader for Iraq, Lebanon protest deaths

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