Schenker will not meet Lebanese officials in Beirut in sign of US frustration

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A senior US diplomat who will visit Beirut this week will not meet with any Lebanese officials, sources with knowledge of the matter said Tuesday, in a sign of Washington’s frustration with the country’s political elite.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker is scheduled to visit Beirut on Sept. 2 during a trip to the region, which included stops in Kuwait and Qatar.

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A statement from the US State Department before Schenker’s trip said he would meet with civil society representatives and discuss US assistance efforts following the deadly Aug. 4 Port of Beirut explosions. The statement also noted that Schenker would “urge Lebanese leaders to implement reforms that respond to the Lebanese people’s desire for transparency, accountability and a government free of corruption.”

However, and contrary to French President Emmanuel Macron, who visited Beirut this week, Schenker will not meet with any Lebanese officials, diplomatic sources confirmed to the Al Arabiya English.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun welcomes French President Emmanuel Macron at Beirut International airport, Aug, 31, 2020. (Reuters)
Lebanese President Michel Aoun welcomes French President Emmanuel Macron at Beirut International airport, Aug, 31, 2020. (Reuters)

Lebanese officials on Monday designated Mustapha Adib to form and head a new government. Adib was Lebanon’s ambassador to Germany and an adviser to former Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

Protesters voiced their rejection of Adib and reiterated their demands for the resignation of the country’s parliament and top officials, including the president and parliament speaker.

Read more: Lebanon: Clashes erupt in downtown Beirut between demonstrators, security forces

“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 after Adib’s designation.

Last month, the number 3 official at the State Department also visited Beirut, where he relayed a message to the Lebanese leaders of the need for change.

David Hale, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, told reporters after his trip to Beirut that “there is no more money” for Lebanon until reforms were carried out. “That era is over,” he said.

Hale said Lebanon had hit “rock bottom” and blasted the ruling elite for using “the system in order to enrich themselves.”

Read more: US calls for end to endemic corruption that has stifled Lebanon: David Hale

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