Lebanon president says PM-designate incapable of forming government

Lebanon president says PM-designate incapable of forming government
By Reuters
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BEIRUT (Reuters) -Lebanon's president has said he believes Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri is incapable of forming a government to pull the nation out of financial crisis.

President Michel Aoun's verdict was contained in a letter read out to parliament on Friday and which will be discussed on Saturday.

The letter, seen by Reuters, follows months of political negotiations in a country where allegiances tend to follow sectarian lines.

The existing government has been acting in a caretaker capacity since resigning after a huge explosion in a portside warehouse tore through Beirut in August. The blast further complicated the task of rescuing an economy that has been in a tailspin since late 2019.

"It has become evident that the prime minister-designate is unable to form a government capable of salvation and meaningful contact with foreign financial institutions, international funds and donor countries," Aoun, a Maronite Christian, wrote in his letter.

Hariri, a Sunni Muslim who like his assassinated father has headed several previous governments, was present during Friday's session.

Hariri was designated in October, after a previous prime minister-designate failed to form a cabinet of technocrats.

Western and other donors, led by former colonial power France, have said Lebanon needs to form a viable cabinet of technocrats or specialists before they will release aid funds. Talks with the International Monetary Fund have stumbled.

Gulf states, which in the past have provided financial support, are reluctant to step because of frustrations over the rising influence of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi'ite group backed by their rival Iran.

Tensions with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab nations were stoked this week by disparaging comments about them by Lebanon's foreign minister in a television interview. The minister quit his caretaker post shortly afterwards.

(Reporting by Laila Bassam and Maha El Dahan; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by John Stonestreet and Giles Elgood)

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