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.


Rouhani: Iran will bypass US sanctions or overcome them through talks

Updated 28 min 20 sec ago

Rouhani: Iran will bypass US sanctions or overcome them through talks

  • Tensions have soared between Tehran and Washington since last year
  • The Islamic Republic has rejected negotiating a new deal with the Trump administration

DUBAI: Iran will overcome US sanctions by either bypassing them or through negotiations, and it will not cross its red lines in any talks with arch-adversary Washington, President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday.
Tensions have soared between Tehran and Washington since last year, when President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions on Tehran that have crippled its oil-based economy.
The Islamic Republic has rejected negotiating a new deal with the Trump administration, saying talks are only possible if Washington returns to the nuclear pact and lifts sanctions.
“The government is determined to defeat (the enemy) by bypassing America’s sanctions...or through various means including talks, but we will not cross our red lines,” the semi-official Iranian news agency ISNA quoted Rouhani as saying. In a rare act of cooperation between Tehran and Washington, the United States and Iran each freed a prisoner on Saturday.
Washington said it was hopeful that the prisoner swap would lead to the release of other Americans held in Iran and that it was a sign Tehran was willing to discuss other issues.
Iran released Xiyue Wang, a US citizen who had been held for three years on spying charges, while the United States freed Iranian Massoud Soleimani, who had faced charges of violating US sanctions against Tehran.
Iran said on Monday there were about 20 Iranians jailed in the United States in cases linked to sanctions violations.