Lebanon could finalize IMF deal despite political vacuum: Caretaker PM

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Lebanon could still finalize a deal with the International Monetary Fund for a $3 billion bailout despite having no president and no fully empowered government, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Thursday.

Beirut signed a draft agreement with the IMF in April but has been slow to implement a series of reforms required by the lender to finalize a deal seen as key to exiting its worst crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.

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The IMF has been critical of “very slow” progress.

Efforts to enact reforms face obstruction from politicians protecting vested interests and evading accountability.

The end of former President Michel Aoun’s term on Oct. 31 without the election of a successor has added to gaps at the executive level in Lebanon, which has already had no fully functioning government since May elections.

However, Mikati said parliament would be able to pass the necessary reforms and finalize the deal if it had the will to do so.

“It’s all up to parliament - if parliament approves it, it can go into effect,” Mikati told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Beirut.

Caretaker Justice Minister Henry Khoury said that approving the deal without a president or government in place was not ideal but that the top-level vacuum would require parliament to step up.

“With all these issues, there is a role for the legislature. We must find solutions,” Khoury told Reuters.

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