French president Macron presses Lebanese politicians as cabinet deadline looms

Lebanon's leaders promised French President Emmanuel Macron that they would form a cabinet of technocrats without party loyalties.
Lebanon's leaders promised French President Emmanuel Macron that they would form a cabinet of technocrats without party loyalties.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS/BEIRUT (REUTERS) - French President Emmanuel Macron has been pressing Lebanese politicians to deliver on promises to form a new government this week and haul the country out of its worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, his office said on Sunday (Sept 13).

Lebanon's leaders promised Mr Macron on Sept 1, during his visit to Beirut, that they would form a cabinet of technocrats without party loyalties in about two weeks to end a crippling economic crisis made worse by a huge Aug 4 blast in the capital.

An official source said Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib was expected to present his plan for a cabinet to Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Monday, seeking to accelerate a process that typically takes months of haggling over ministries.

"The (French) president continues his calls with the various political players in Lebanon," the French presidential Elysee Palace said, without giving details about any discussions.

Mr Macron held phone talks on Saturday with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a top Shi'ite politician, in an effort to remove an obstacle over the finance ministry post, which is traditionally controlled by Shi'ites, a political ally of Mr Berri said.

Mr Berri, head of the Amal Movement, an ally of the politically powerful and heavily armed Shi'ite group Hezbollah, said in a statement on Sunday his group opposed the manner in which the cabinet was being formed, citing a lack of consultation, and did not want to join. But he said he would cooperate to stabilise the nation.

Donors have demanded reforms to unlock billions of dollars in aid that was originally pledged in 2018 but never disbursed.

France has drawn up a detailed roadmap for tackling endemic corruption and dealing with a host of other economic problems that have paralysed the banking system and sent the currency into tailspin, plunging many Lebanese into poverty.

The prime minister-designate, a Sunni, has made few public comments. But sources say he wants to shake up the leadership of ministries, some of which have been controlled by the same groups for years.

 
 

Any government will need the blessing and support of the main Christian and Muslim factions to function and ensure it conforms with Lebanon's sectarian system of power sharing.

Political sources say Mr Berri's position towards the new cabinet hardened after the United States imposed sanctions last week on allies of Hezbollah, a group Washington deems a terrorist group but which Paris says has a legitimate political role.