Beirut: Lebanon’s premier-designate, Saad Hariri, is weighing resignation if the country’s president doesn’t accept his proposed cabinet, a move that would prolong the political turmoil deepening the country’s worst financial crisis in decades.
Hariri, a former prime minister and the country’s most influential Sunni leader, is expected to announce whether he’ll quit or stay on in a televised interview on Thursday evening. He submitted a draft lineup of ministers the day before to President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian, in what seemed to be his last attempt to reach an agreement.
Speaking to reporters after meeting with the president, Hariri said: “The moment of truth has come and we will know.” He has said that stepping down was an option if it meant facilitating the formation of a new government.
Local media reported that if the president rejects Hariri’s most recent proposal, then the premier-designate - nominated in October - could resign. Aoun’s office said he would meet with Hariri again on Thursday afternoon to continue discussing the cabinet lineup.
Hariri wants to form a government of non-partisan experts to manage the financial crisis that’s depleted foreign currency reserves and driven legions of Lebanese into poverty. Aoun, an ally of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group, says his position as president allows him to name Christian ministers close to him and has sought veto power in the new government.
The international community, primarily former colonial power France, has been pushing politicians to form a government quickly and begin implementing reforms that would unlock donor funds and resume stalled talks with the International Monetary Fund. Paris has threatened politicians with sanctions if delays persist.
Lebanon has been under a caretaker cabinet since August when outgoing Premier Hassan Diab resigned in the aftermath of massive explosion at Beirut’s port that killed at least 200 people and destroyed swaths of the capital. The government, which defaulted on $30 billion in international debt over a year ago, has struggled to implement reforms given its limited authority and political backing.