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Lebanon: US calls on new government to make 'tangible reforms'

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to press during a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (not seen) at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on 18 October, 2019. Secretary Pompeo will meet with NATO partners [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brussels, Belgium on 18 October 2019 [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]

The United States has called on Lebanon's new government to implement "real and tangible reforms" following months of protests in the country over corruption and a worsening economic crisis. In a statement issued yesterday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Lebanese government, which was appointed earlier this week, will face many challenges and tests, particularly regarding its response to the popular demands of its citizens.

Pompeo added that reforms to end corruption in the government and improve its worst economic situation since the end of the 15-year civil war in 1990 will ultimately benefit the country and attract international business and investment. "Only a government that is capable of and committed to undertaking real and tangible reforms will restore investor confidence and unlock international assistance for Lebanon," he insisted.

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The US official also urged "the government, army and security services to guarantee the safety of citizens as they engage in peaceful demonstrations," saying that violence should have no place within civil or political discourse.

Calling on the new government in Beirut to put aside factional interests and partisan actions, Pompeo said that it should be working in the national interest to match and address the "unified, non-sectarian and largely peaceful protests over the past three months."

As the new cabinet was being formed, the newly-installed Prime Minister Hassan Diab ensured that it was being put together according to the expectations of the protestors. Members will be working to return looted public funds and to ensure the independence of the judiciary.

Diab's administration faces a myriad of challenges to correct the shortcomings of its predecessor. Among them are winning the confidence of the Lebanese people as a whole; keeping peace between the numerous factions in an extremely diverse society; ridding the political system of corruption; improving the economic situation; and fulfilling the overall demands of protestors.

READ: UN chief welcomes formation of new government in Lebanon

Over the past few months, Lebanon has experienced a wave of protests and demonstrations regarding financial instability, government corruption and the need for the country's politics to be overhauled.

As a result of the protests, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in late October, declaring later that he would not run for the position again. President Michel Aoun then held formal consultations with members of parliament over who to select as his replacement, before appointing university Professor and former Education Minister Hassan Diab on 20 December.

Although the new government has just been announced and set up, there have been reports that protestors are already dissatisfied with Diab's cabinet. They claim that it does not reflect the diversity of Lebanon, is backed by factions which the protestors are against, such as the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, and is still corrupt.

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