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Lebanon's prime minister-designate quits in blow to French initiative

LEBANON-POLITICS-ADIB
Lebanon's newly appointed premier Mustapha Adib (C) speaks during a press conference at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, on August 31, 2020[JOSEPH EID/AFP via Getty Images]

Lebanon’s prime minister-designate quit on Saturday after trying for almost a month to line up a non-partisan cabinet, dealing a blow to a French plan aimed at rallying sectarian leaders to tackle the worst crisis since the nation’s 1975-1990 civil war, Reuters reports.

Mustapha Adib, former ambassador to Berlin, was picked on Aug. 31 to form a cabinet after President Emmanuel Macron’s intervention secured a consensus on naming him in a country where power is shared out between Muslims and Christians.

A source close to Macron said the situation that led to Adib’s resignation amounted to “collective betrayal” by political parties but said France, the former colonial power, would not abandon Lebanon.

Under the French roadmap, the new government would take steps to tackle corruption and implement reforms needed to trigger billions of dollars of international aid to fix an economy that has been crushed by a mountain of debt.

READ: Lebanon central bank employees to receive bonuses

Lebanon faced a further knock when a huge explosion at Beirut port on Aug. 4 ruined a swathe of the capital.

Adib – a Sunni Muslim, as the prime minister has to be under the sectarian power-sharing system – announced he was stepping down but said Lebanon must not abandon the French plan or squander Macron’s goodwill.

“I stress that this initiative must continue,” he said after meeting President Michel Aoun, a Christian. He wished his successor well in the “hard task” of forming a government.

Politicians, whose loyalties tend to follow confessional lines, had promised Paris they would have a government in place by mid-September.

But Adib’s efforts stumbled in a dispute over appointments, particularly the post of finance minister, who will have a key role in drawing up economic rescue plans.

“It’s a setback, but we’re not giving up,” a French diplomatic source said.

READ: France backs proposal to end Lebanese cabinet deadlock

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