Lebanon’s parliament speaker Berri urges change to confessional system

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Lebanon’s parliament speaker Nabih Berri Monday called for change to the country’s confessional political system in the aftermath of the explosion at Beirut’s port, blamed on official negligence and corruption.

“The most dangerous thing that the port disaster revealed... is the total collapse of the political and economic system’s structure,” Berri said shortly after the president designated Mustapha Adib as the new prime minister.

“Therefore, there must be a change to this confessional system, which is the cause of all ills,” he said.

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The prominent Shia Muslim politician, who has been in the post since 1992 and whom activists have long accused of corruption, has called for an end to sectarian politics before.

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But his call this time comes as other key political leaders in crisis-hit Lebanon have also urged change -- long demanded by protesters -- ahead of an imminent visit by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Sunday called for a secular state, while the chief of Shiite movement Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, said he was open to Macron’s proposal for a new political pact.

Berri also called for a “secular state”, hours before Macron was set to land.

He spoke just after the presidency announced a new prime minister, little-known diplomat Mustapha Adib, to form a fresh government to implement much-needed reforms.

Adib replaces Hassan Diab, who stepped down after the August 4 explosion of a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate at the capital’s port that killed 190 people as per latest toll, injured thousands and ravaged large parts of Beirut.

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