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Lebanon crisis

US State Department ‘closely’ watching situation in Lebanon as protests gather steam

Published: Updated:

Washington is “closely” monitoring the situation in Lebanon after protesters took to the streets as the local currency tumbled to a record low and the country’s political elite bicker over the formation of a new government.

Lebanon has been without a fully functioning government since last August when the prime minister stepped down days after the devastating Beirut blast.

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“We are closely monitoring the situation in Lebanon,” a State Department spokesperson told Al Arabiya English.

Streets were blocked with burning tires and protesters on Tuesday after the Lebanese pound dipped to a record low.

Pegged to the US dollar since 1997 at 1,507.5, the Lebanese pound was trading on the black market at around 10,000LL-$1.

A shortage of access to the greenback and rampant corruption by officials and in state institutions has taken a severe toll on investor confidence in the tiny Mediterranean nation.

Saad Hariri then garnered the majority of votes needed in parliament to become the next prime minister-designate. The three-time prime minister has been unable to form his fourth government since being designated last October.

Hezbollah’s Christian ally, the Free Patriotic Movement, is reportedly demanding a veto power, or a blocking third, in the upcoming government. Hezbollah and the FPM are also adamant about having politically-affiliated representatives in Hariri’s government.

The latter has said he will only head a government of independent specialists, in line with an international plan to help Lebanon out of its unprecedented crises.

“We, and other international partners, have repeatedly underscored both publicly and privately the urgency for Lebanon’s political leaders to finally act upon the commitments they made to form a credible and effective government,” the State Department official said.

French President Emmanuel Macron has spearheaded the international community’s response to helping the crumbling Lebanese state. But he has so far failed to make any headway or progress in pressing for a government to be formed.

Macron has also been criticized for taking a soft stance on Iran-backed Hezbollah, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, the Gulf and several European and Latin American nations.

He raised the issue of Lebanon during a phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday, according to a statement from Macron's office.

Nationwide anti-government protests, coupled with the coronavirus pandemic, further hit the crisis-struck country in the last two years.

“The United States supports the Lebanese people in their continued calls for accountability and the reforms needed to realize economic opportunity, better governance, and an end to endemic corruption,” the State Department official told Al Arabiya English.

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