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Lebanon: Talks over cabinet shake-up gain ground, as IMF talks stall

Thousands of people gather at Martyrs' Square during a demonstration to protest against economic crisis and high cost of living, on June 06, 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon [Hussam Chbaro / Anadolu Agency]
Thousands of people gather at Martyrs' Square during a demonstration to protest against economic crisis and high cost of living, on June 06, 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon [Hussam Chbaro / Anadolu Agency]

Negotiations are underway to install a new cabinet, with former Prime Minister Saad Hariri returning to take the helm, as a way to solve the current crisis, Lebanese media has reported.

“Negotiations have been ongoing for the past 24 hours with ex-PM Saad Hariri over the possibility of his return as premier,” the Lebanese daily Akhbar Al-Yawm quoted sources familiar with the matter as saying.

Calls have intensified for the formation of a new government in recent weeks as protesters have returned to the streets over the rapidly worsening economic crisis. Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli was quoted by Naharnet yesterday as telling reporters: “My personal opinion, with all due respect to the head and members of the incumbent government, is that a re-evaluation of the government’s structure has become necessary.”

Adding, “I even urge Mr Prime Minister Diab to exert efforts to achieve and facilitate the formation of an alternative government that would contribute to finding solutions for the Lebanese society.”

Read: Lebanese security forces investigate blast near Hariri convoy

Former Prime Minister Hariri, however, has said he is not rushing back and denied involvement in talks on government change, saying: “I am not rushing to become prime minister, nor I am thinking of becoming a prime minister. I have not spoken with anyone and no one is negotiating with me”, the Daily Star reported.

However, Hariri, who resigned in October following pressure from protesters, later told reporters he had conditions for returning as prime minister, including “an entirely different way of work. If we don’t abandon a sharing of [political spoils], and other things, nothing will change”.

The rumoured talks come as protesters have returned to the streets over the failure of the current government to enact much needed reforms since January. According to a press release from the Lebanese Ministry of Finance, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is demanding these reforms are implemented before bailout talks can continue. The talks are also said to have stalled while the IMF asks for political cohesion over central bank loss figures before proceeding.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese lira, which is officially pegged to the dollar at a rate of 1,570.5 to $1, has reached 9,000 to $1 in recent days, with residents turning to trading items online in exchange for food.

READ: Lebanese government raises subsidised bread prices as currency tumbles

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