France yesterday backed a proposal by former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri that could help with the formation of Lebanon's new cabinet amid the country's worst crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
"This declaration represents an opening and all parties should understand its importance so that a government of mission can now be established," said the French Foreign Ministry.
On Tuesday, Hariri — a leading Sunni politician — offered a way out by proposing an "independent" Shia candidate to be named as finance minister. He stressed, however, that the move would not mean that the position "should always be held by a Shia."
Paris has been pressing politicians in Lebanon for the quick formation of a government that "will draw up reforms to tackle corruption and help attract international aid to fix an economy drowning in debt."
Sunni Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib had sought to shake up ministerial positions with a new cabinet of specialists. Under Lebanon's sectarian system of power-sharing, the prime minister will always be a Muslim and the president will be a Christian.
Lebanon's problems were compounded by a devastating blast at the port of Beirut on 4 August. Subsequent fires in and around the area and an explosion on Tuesday in south Lebanon have further rattled the nation.