Lebanon's Hezbollah says US obstructed government formation efforts

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Lebanon’s Hezbollah on Thursday said the US Trump administration is responsible for obstructing government formation efforts.

Where French President Emmanuel Macron gave Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib two weeks to form a government, the deadline has now passed, and sectarian squabbling over Cabinet seats persists in the country.

Specifically, heavy debate has focused around who would win the coveted Ministry of Finance. Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc has insisted the block go to a Shia party. Iran-backed Hezbollah and Amal are the main Shia parties in Lebanon.

Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc said it affirmed the importance of the French initiative in Lebanon but added the US administration “is the one responsible for obstructing the efforts to form the government.”

In a statement, the bloc indicated it still saw the chance to agree on a cabinet, saying it “still sees the opportunity available to renew that which was wrecked by those who handling, in the shadows, the operation of forming the new government.”

Earlier this month, the US sanctioned former Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, who is also the top political aide to Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, and the country’s former Public Works Minister Youssef Fenianos for corruption and for their support to Iran-backed Hezbollah.

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The last government, headed by Hassan Diab, resigned in the wake of the Beirut Port explosion on August 4 that left at least 190 dead and destroyed entire sections of the capital city.

Macron arrived in Lebanon shortly after the blast to put forth its roadmap for reform that included forming a cabinet of independent ministers within two weeks. Typically government formation in Lebanon takes months.

Adib has said he does not want to deviate from his mission of forming a government of specialist
ministers, a source close to him said on Thursday, as efforts to form the new cabinet continue to flounder, Reuters reported.

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Political sources say Adib has been working on proposals to switch control of ministries, many of which have been held by the same factions for years.

The country is currently in the grips of an unprecedented economic crisis and the government must pass long overdue and much needed reforms to attract foreign aid promised by France and other donors. US officials have also stressed that aid will not be delivered unless serious reforms are undertaken, but pledged over $17 million in disaster aid after August's explosion.

However, the government, which is currently limited by its caretaker status, has little ability to actually introduce legislation.

-With Reuters

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