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Lebanon's Hariri hopes government will be finalised on Friday

Lebanon's Hariri hopes government will be finalised on Friday
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri speaks during a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon, November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo   -   Copyright  MOHAMED AZAKIR(Reuters)
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BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri said he hoped a new national unity government would be finalised on Friday, after more than seven months of political wrangling over cabinet positions.

Lebanese politicians have indicated a government deal is close but have to announce a final agreement. Speaking about the government formation at a Beirut conference, Hariri said: “God willing we will finish today.”

Efforts to form the government have been obstructed by conflicting demands for cabinet seats that must be parcelled out in line with a finely balanced, sectarian political system.

Heavily indebted and suffering from a stagnant economy, Lebanon is in dire need of an administration that can set about long-stalled reforms to put public debt on a sustainable footing.

Hariri said everyone was committed to reforms and said the government would try to bring down the subsidy it pays on energy by about $600 million in 2019.

Lebanon has the third larges debt-to-GDP ratio in the world.

Hariri also said a second round of bidding for Lebanese off-shore energy exploration should be open in February or March, adding that BP “is interested and the Americans are interested”.

Lebanon’s first round of exploration began in May after authorities approved an exploration plan submitted by a consortium of France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Novatek.

(Reporting by Ellen Francis; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Alison Williams)

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