Lebanon’s Khatib sees consensus on Hariri as prime minister again

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Lebanese businessman Samir Khatib formally withdrew his candidacy to head a new government, following a meeting with Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Beirut on Sunday, according to an Al Arabiya correspondent.

Khatib said that he had been subjected to an unfair campaign in the past two weeks.

It is expected that around 90 out of the 128 MPs in Lebanon’s parliament may name Hariri as prime minister, according to an Al Arabiya correspondent.

Ahead of his visit to Hariri’s residence, Khatib said there was a consensus for nominating Hariri as PM again to form a new government, following a meeting with Lebanon’s top Sunni Muslim religious leader Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian.

The statement spelt the end of Khatib’s candidacy for the post which is reserved for a Sunni Muslim in Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system.

Hariri, now running a caretaker government, quit as prime minister on October 29, prompted by protests against the ruling elite.

“Positions come and go, but the dignity and safety of the country is more important,” Hariri said at the time.

Consensus emerged last week around Khatib as the new premier, with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, the leading Shia Muslim in the state, saying he would nominate Khatib.

“I was originally going to nominate Prime Minister Saad Hariri or the person he backs to form the government, and given that he supports Engineer Samir Khatib, I will nominate ... Samir Khatib,” Berri told al-Joumhouria newspaper.

Hariri was first elected to Lebanon’s Parliament in a 2005 landslide victory, following the assassination of his father, then-prime minister Rafik Hariri, in a Beirut car bombing.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Hariri headed the Future Movement party and was named prime minister in June 2009. He exited the position when his unity government collapsed in 2011, but was named prime minister again in December 2016.

The Saudi-born Lebanese businessman is a telecom mogul, whose net worth in 2013 was estimated at $1.9 billion by Forbes.

- With Reuters

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