Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib quits amid political crisis
Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate has quit amid a month-long political impasse over forming government in the crisis-hit country.
- Mr Macron had pushed for consensus to appoint Mr Abid to form cabinet
- But progress stalled over Shiite groups’ demands for the Finance Minister position
- Lebanon needs financial assistance, but France and others have refused until reforms are made to root out corruption
The former government resigned after a deadly explosion at a Beirut port on August 4, which claimed the lives of nearly 200 people, including an Australian toddler, Isaac Oehlers.
Mustapha Adib’s resignation is a blow to a French bid aimed at rallying sectarian leaders to tackle the worst crisis since the nation’s 1975-1990 civil war.
Mr Adib, a former ambassador to Berlin, was picked on August 31 to form a cabinet after French President Emmanuel Macron’s intervention secured a consensus on naming him in a country where power is shared between Muslims and Christians.
Mr Adib told reporters he was stepping down after it became clear that the kind of cabinet he wished to form was “bound to fail”.
A source close to Mr Macron said the situation that led to Mr Adib’s resignation amounted to “collective betrayal” by political parties.
“It is indispensable to have a government capable of receiving international aid. France will not abandon Lebanon,” said the official.
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Lebanon is in desperate need of financial assistance but France — the former colonial power — and others have refused to provide aid before serious reforms are made.
The crisis is largely blamed on decades of systematic corruption and mismanagement by Lebanon’s ruling class, and has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic and the August 4 blast.
Mr Adib announced he was stepping down but said Lebanon must not abandon the French plan or squander Mr Macron’s goodwill.
“I stress that this initiative must continue,” he said after meeting President Michel Aoun.
He wished his successor well in the “hard task” of forming a government.
Politicians had promised Paris they would have a government in place by mid-September.
“It’s a setback, but we’re not giving up,” a French diplomatic source said.
French plan hits roadblock
Under the French roadmap, the new government would take swift 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.
The cabinet formation hit a roadblock when the country’s main Shiite groups, Amal and Iran-backed Hezbollah, insisted on retaining hold of the key finance ministry.
Shiite leaders feared being sidelined as Mr Adib, a Sunni Muslim, sought to shake up appointments to ministries, some of which have been controlled by the same faction for years, politicians said.
French President Macron has described his initiative, including a road map and a timetable for reforms, as “the last chance for this system”.
Amal leader and Parliament speaker Nabih Berri said his group still backed the French plan, while Suleiman Frangieh — head of a Christian group allied to Hezbollah — called the initiative a “golden opportunity that Lebanon must not lose”.
The party founded by Lebanon’s president, the Free Patriotic Movement, said it was sticking to the French plan’s principles and urged Mr Macron to continue helping Lebanon.
It said a new cabinet needed the support of political blocs.
Opponents accused Mr Adib of not consulting enough.
Former prime minister Saad al-Hariri, a leading Sunni politician who backed Mr Adib, said anyone celebrating the collapse of Mr Macron’s initiative “will bite your fingers in regret”.
The street value of the Lebanese pound, which has plunged since the economic crisis erupted last year, weakened further after the news.