‘New direction’ needed to help Lebanon exit current crisis: US official

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The new Lebanese government will have to chart “a new direction” on reform and anti-corruption in order to exit the current crisis, the United States said Monday, hours after a prime minister was designated in Beirut to form a new cabinet.

“Whatever government comes next is going to have to meet the legitimate aspirations and needs expressed by the Lebanese people by urgently implementing meaningful reforms,” a State Department spokesperson told Al Arabiya English.

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“Only through charting a new direction dedicated to reform and anti-corruption can the next government help Lebanon exit this current crisis,” the official added.

Mustapha Adib was designated to form and head a new government in a country that celebrates its centennial this year but is experiencing an unprecedented economic and financial crisis.

Adib garnered 90 votes out of Lebanon’s 128-member parliament. Traditional political parties - which protesters are demanding resign - agreed on Diab after international pressure to appoint a new premier.

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Beirut Monday on his second visit to Beirut since the Aug. 4 explosions. Macron reportedly used aggressive language with Lebanese leaders during his last trip and called for a “new political pact.”

Adib was an adviser to former Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and was Beirut’s ambassador to Germany since 2013.

Analysts have expressed doubt over the independence of Adib and the ability to head a government capable of changing or cracking down on the rampant corruption in the country.

Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib, meets with President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri, Aug. 31, 2020. (Reuters)
Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib, meets with President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri, Aug. 31, 2020. (Reuters)

Asked about Adib’s appointment, the State Department official said any new government must demonstrate its readiness to act in the interests of the Lebanese people by fighting corruption and implementing reforms that could address the demands of the Lebanese people for economic opportunity, accountability, and transparency.

Protests started last October as hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets calling for an end to then-Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government.

Read more: Lebanon braces for second coronavirus wave as protests planned after Beirut explosion

Hezbollah and its allies then nominated and formed a one-sided government, contrary to traditional Lebanese governments that were “national unity” cabinets.

Hariri and the main Sunni leaders of Lebanon did not support Diab or his government.

In contrast, Adib’s name was proposed by Hariri and his allies. Hezbollah and the pro-Syrian parties in Lebanon accepted.

In Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim. The president and parliament speaker must be Maronite Christian and Shia Muslim, respectively.

Adib will now hold consultations with various political blocs to agree on the new shape and form of a government before asking parliament for a vote of confidence.

In a sign of frustration with Adib and how the same political sides appointed him that protesters are demanding to resign, Beirut residents demonstrated against Adib’s designation.

Read more: Beirut residents unconvinced by Lebanon’s new prime minister-designate

“The devastating August 4 explosion has only magnified calls by the Lebanese people and international community for government reform, transparency, and economic stability that remain unmet,” the State Department official said.

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