Lebanese foreign minister quits over slow reforms, Aoun adviser takes over

Lebanon's Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti gestures during a cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon February 6, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 03 August 2020

Lebanese foreign minister quits over slow reforms, Aoun adviser takes over

  • Charbel Wehbe has been appointed as foreign minister
  • Hitti’s resignation is a blow to Hassan Diab’s government

BEIRUT: Lebanon named the president’s diplomatic adviser as new foreign minister on Monday after Nassif Hitti quit the post, blaming a lack of political will to enact reforms to halt a financial meltdown which he warned could turn Lebanon into a failed state.
Foreign donors have made clear there will be no aid until Beirut makes changes to tackle state waste and corruption, which are behind the crisis that is the biggest threat to Lebanon’s stability since a 1975-1990 civil war.
“Will this cry of deep frustration move Lebanon to finally work on reforms, on measures taking care of the Lebanese, sinking every day deeper into poverty and desperation?” tweeted United Nations special coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis.
In his resignation statement, Hitti cited “the absence of an effective will to achieve structural, comprehensive reform.”
President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab accepted the resignation and appointed Charbel Wehbe, Aoun’s diplomatic adviser since 2017, as foreign minister.
Wehbe, 67, is a former secretary general of the ministry.
“MULTIPLE BOSSES“
Hitti, a former ambassador to the Arab League, was appointed in January when Diab’s cabinet took office with the support of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement and its allies.
“I took part in this government to work for one boss called Lebanon, then I found in my country multiple bosses and contradictory interests,” Hitti said. “If they do not come together in the interest of rescuing the Lebanese people, God forbid, the ship will sink with everyone on it.”
Hitti also had differences with Diab and was frustrated at being sidelined, sources close to the ministry said. Diab appeared to criticize France’s foreign minister for tying aid to reforms and a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) when visiting Beirut last month.
A spokesperson for Diab’s office said the cabinet was focused on moving ahead with a forensic audit of the central bank and “a wide range of other reforms.”
Talks with the IMF, which the heavily indebted state entered in May after a sovereign default, are on hold due to a row over the scale of vast financial losses between the government, the banking sector and lawmakers from the main parties.


Israel's Mossad head meets top Bahrain security officials

Updated 53 min 35 sec ago

Israel's Mossad head meets top Bahrain security officials

DUBAI: The head of Israel’s foreign intelligence service Mossad met Bahrain's heads of national intelligence and strategic security during a visit to Bahrain on Wednesday, Bahrain's state news agency (BNA) reported.
Joseph (Yossi) Cohen discussed during his meetings issues of common interest and cooperation prospects among the two countries, BNA said on Thursday.