Lebanon PM-designate says new cabinet needed to stem crisis
Lebanon's premier-designate Saad Hariri on Thursday stressed the urgent need to form a government to relaunch talks with the International Monetary Fund and tackle a desperate economic crisis.
He and President Michel Aoun had exchanged accusations on Wednesday over who was to blame for months of deadlock in drawing up a new government, revealing the extent of the political crisis compounding the country's worst financial crunch in decades.
Hariri said he had met Aoun Thursday to try to diffuse the situation, calling for a cabinet to be formed "as soon as possible".
"The main goal of any government today is to first stop the collapse, through the International Monetary Fund programme, and restore the confidence of the international community" in Lebanon, he told journalists.
Hariri said he would meet Aoun again on Monday.
Beirut started talks with the IMF in May last year under the outgoing government, but they soon hit a wall.
The government then resigned after a massive explosion in Beirut port last August killed more than 200 people and ravaged the capital.
Months later, the political class remains deeply divided over the makeup of the new cabinet.
International donors have demanded a new government and sweeping reforms in order to unlock billions of dollars pledged in aid.
A French diplomatic source on Wednesday said France, as well as other European nations and the United States, had upped the pressure on Lebanese politicians.
Over the past weeks, the Lebanese pound has continued to plunge to new lows to the dollar on the black market, and has lost almost 90 percent of its value a year and a half ago.
Handfuls of angry protesters have blocked roads with burning tyres, some shops and factories have closed, and videos have started to circulate of people fighting over cheaper subsidised food in supermarkets.
Pharmacies across the country closed their doors on Thursday in protest at the difficulty of replenishing stocks amid a hard currency crunch that is affecting imports.
The economic crisis has also been compounded by lockdown measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic.