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Lebanon’s Aoun asked Lazard to continue advisory role ahead of IMF talks

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Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun on Thursday asked Lazard to continue its financial advisory role in preparation for a resumption of talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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Aoun made his request while receiving a delegation from the company, a statement on the official presidency Twitter account said.

Lebanon is battling a deep economic meltdown that has seen its currency lose around 90 percent of its value in the past year and propelled three quarters of its population into poverty.

Lazard is the firm that drafted the original financial recovery plan for Lebanon before IMF talks stalled last year.

Aoun stressed during the meeting that the plan should be revised to strengthen Lebanon’s position during the talks as the figures have changed in more than a year.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Monday he would discuss in a meeting with Lazard how the plan could be developed into a “more realistic” vision for getting the country out of its crisis.

In Lazard’s rescue plan, originally drawn up to help the previous government, losses of some $90 bilion in the financial system were identified.

But the plan was shot down by objections from the banks, which said it made them foot too much of the bill for the collapse, in addition to opposition from the central bank and the ruling political elite that got Lebanon into its crisis.

An agreement over the distribution of the huge losses in the financial system, the main sticking point during last year’s negotiations, is seen as key prior to the resumption of talks with the IMF.

Lebanon’s economy minister said on Wednesday the country’s banking sector, central bank and other players in its financial system were working in “harmony” to agree on the size and distribution of losses sustained during the economic crisis.

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