Lebanon’s Hariri backs businessman Khatib for prime minister

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Lebanon’s Saad Hariri on Tuesday backed businessman Samir al-Khatib to head the next government, though he said some details still had to be discussed.

Hariri last week withdrew his candidacy for the premiership, saying he hoped to clear the way for a solution to the political impasse amid nearly eight weeks of anti-government protests.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday night, Hariri said he backs Samir Khatib to become the country’s next prime minister, adding he hoped to it would lead to something good.

Khatib heads one of Lebanon’s largest engineering and contracting companies and has not held any political roles in the past.

Over the past weeks, politicians failed to agree on how to form a new government.

Hariri had insisted on heading a government of technocrats, while his opponents, including the militant group Hezbollah, want a Cabinet made up of both experts and politicians.

It was not clear how the protesters, who have been demonstrating against widespread corruption and mismanagement in the country, will respond to the possible formation of the government.

The frustrated protesters have resorted to road closures and other tactics to pressure politicians into responding to their demands for a new government.

They have insisted that a new Cabinet be made up of independent figures that have nothing to do with the ruling elite that have been running the country since the 1975-90 civil war ended.

President Michel Aoun now is expected to call for binding consultations with heads of parliamentary blocs to name the new prime minister.

But since Hariri, the most powerful Sunni leader in the country said he will back Khatib, the contractor is widely expected to get the post.

According to Lebanon’s power sharing system implemented since independence from France in 1943, the president has to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister should be a Sunni and the parliament speaker a Shia.

Cabinet and parliament seats are equally split between Christians and Muslims.

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