Lebanon’s outgoing PM backs businessman to replace him

Saad Hariri said he wants to see prominent contractor Samir Khatib become Lebanon’s next prime minister. (Reuters)
Updated 03 December 2019

Lebanon’s outgoing PM backs businessman to replace him

  • Hariri said he backs Samir Khatib to become the country’s next prime minister
  • Hariri withdrew his candidacy for the premiership, hoping to clear the way for a solution to the political impasse

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Tuesday he supports the nomination of a prominent contractor to become the country’s next premier, a move that will likely pave the way for the formation of a new Cabinet amid a severe economic and financial crisis.
Hariri last week withdrew his candidacy for the premiership, saying he hoped to clear the way for a solution to the political impasse amid nearly eight weeks of anti-government protests.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday night, Hariri said he backs Samir Khatib to become the country’s next prime minister adding that “there are still some details and God willing something good” will happen. Hariri added that “everyone is trying to pass through this difficult period.”
Khatib heads one of Lebanon’s largest engineering and contracting companies and did not hold any political roles in the past.
Over the past weeks, politicians failed to agree on the shape and form of a new government. Hariri had insisted on heading a government of technocrats, while his opponents, including the militant group Hezbollah, want a Cabinet made up of both experts and politicians.
Asked if he is going to take part in the new Cabinet, Hariri said: “I will not nominate political personalities but experts.”
It was not clear how the protesters who have been demonstrating against widespread corruption and mismanagement in the country would respond to the possible formation of the government. The frustrated protesters have resorted to road closures and other tactics to pressure politicians into responding to their demands for a new government.
They have insisted that a new Cabinet be made up of independent figures that have nothing to do with the ruling elite that have been running the country since the 1975-90 civil war ended.
President Michel Aoun now is expected to call for binding consultations with heads of parliamentary blocs to name the new prime minister. But since Hariri, the most powerful Sunni leader in the country said he will back Khatib, the contractor is widely expected to get the post.
According to Lebanon’s power sharing system implemented since independence from France in 1943, the president has to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister should be a Sunni and the parliament speaker a Shiite. Cabinet and parliament seats are equally split between Christians and Muslims.
Earlier in the day, outgoing Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil hinted that he will not be part of the new government telling reporters that “the success of the Cabinet is more important than our presence in it.”
The apparent breakthrough comes as Lebanon is passing through its worst economic and financial crisis in decades with one of the highest debt ratios in the world, high unemployment and an expected contraction in the economy in 2020. Local banks have imposed capital control measures unseen before in the country known for its free market economy.
The possible breakthrough came a day after protesters hurled stones at soldiers while opening a highway south of Beirut, injuring several troops. The Lebanese army said in a statement on Tuesday that one of the protesters in the town of Naameh fired bullets from a pistol the night before adding that the shooting made the troops fire in the air to disperse the protesters.


Reza Pahlavi, son of Iran’s last shah, says regime is cracking from within

Updated 26 January 2020

Reza Pahlavi, son of Iran’s last shah, says regime is cracking from within

  • ahlavi strongly backed the US drone strike that killed the powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani
  • "How long can it possibly be sustained?”

LONDON: The former crown prince of Iran says the regime is cracking from within under the pressure of a wave of fresh protests.

Reza Pahlavi, the son of the last shah, was just 17 when he fled into exile with his family during the 1979 Islamic revolution that overthrew the monarchy.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, he said the demonstrations, which have included chants for the royal family to return, show that the current regime may be coming to an end.

“The cracking from within of the system is getting more and more obvious,” he said. “When you look at the circumstances in Iran today, put yourselves in the shoes of the worst-off — how long can it possibly be sustained?”

The protests intensified in November after an increase in fuel prices. Vast crowds demonstrated in cities across the country before the regime cut the internet and killed hundreds of people in a brutal crackdown.

Large numbers returned to the streets this month, angered by the shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet by the Iranian military, and Tehran’s initial insistence that it was an accident.

“The protests are very pervasive, in many sectors of society,” Pahlavi, 59, said in Washington where he lives. “They are all over the country. And a new development we haven’t seen before: the so-called silent middle class, which until now were not taking positions, are beginning to speak out.

“I’m not saying this is a guaranteed collapse. But the ingredients that get us closer to that point seem to be more prevailing these days than ever before.”

Pahlavi said he no longer has any desire to return to the throne, despite once being a rallying point for opposition groups after his father died in 1980.

However, he said he believed there could be a new Iran after the fall of the clerical regime and that his role could be as a go-between for the Iranian diaspora, foreign governments and opposition groups inside Iran.

“To the extent that there is a name recognition, I can utilise that,” he said. “I have no ambition of any kind of role or function or title. I’d like to be an advocate for the people. I don’t let any of this go to my head, I’ve been around too long for that.”

Pahlavi strongly backed the US drone strike that killed the powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani “as a breakthrough that is positive for the region.”

He also backs the punishing US sanctions introduced when Washington withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.

He said he hopes one day to be able to return to his homeland.

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