Former Lebanese PM Hariri announces candidacy for government formation
Lebanon's former prime minister Saad Hariri said on Thursday that he was a possible candidate to head a new government that will deal with the country's economic collapse following a massive blast at the port of Beirut.
French President Emmanuel Macron last month extracted a pledge from all political sides in Lebanon to speedily form a government as part of a roadmap out of the country’s crisis, but efforts so far have failed.
"I am definitely a candidate" to head the next government, Hariri said during a live interview on the MTV television channel.
"I will not close the door on the only hope left for Lebanon to stem this collapse," he added.
The country is mired in its worst economic recession in decades, and still reeling from a massive explosion at Beirut’s port on August 4 that killed more than 200 people, wounded thousands and ravaged large parts of the capital.
President Michel Aoun is to hold parliamentary consultations on naming a new premier on Thursday next week.
Hariri said he was ready to start making phone calls during the coming week "if all political teams still agree on the programme" discussed with Macron.
The former premier stepped down last autumn after mass protests erupted demanding the removal of a political class accused of being inept and corrupt.
The government that followed, headed by Hassan Diab, resigned in the wake of the huge Beirut blast.
The next premier designate, Mustafa Adib, last month bowed out just weeks after being nominated, after his efforts to hammer out a cabinet were blocked by the country's two main Shia political parties - Hezbollah and Amal – which demanded control of Lebanon’s finance ministry.
Forming a government can drag on for months in multi-sectarian Lebanon, where a power-sharing agreement seeks to maintain a fragile balance between all sides.
But Hariri said all political sides had agreed with Macron, who visited Beirut twice in the wake of the blast, to set aside their differences for six months to save the country from further deterioration.
"Every political side can invent a problem to stop government formation," Hariri said.
"But if the political parties really want to stem the collapse and rebuild Beirut, they must follow the French initiative," he added.