Lebanese top cleric urges leaders to stop delays in forming government

Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai speaks after meeting with Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon July 15, 2020. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 18 October 2020

Lebanese top cleric urges leaders to stop delays in forming government

  • Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai was speaking a day after demonstrators marched through Beirut to mark the first anniversary
  • His remarks came after two main Christian parties said this week they would not back the nomination of former Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s top Christian cleric urged Lebanese leaders to stop delaying talks on forming a government in a scathing Sunday sermon in which he blamed them for the country’s financial crisis and political deadlock.
Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, leader of the Maronite church, was speaking a day after demonstrators marched through Beirut to mark the first anniversary of a protest movement which erupted last October against corruption and mismanagement.
In the year since, Lebanon’s problems have been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic and a devastating explosion in Beirut in August.
“Take your hands off the government and liberate it. You are responsible for the crime of plunging the country into total paralysis in addition to the implications of the corona pandemic,” the patriarch said in his sermon.
His remarks came after two main Christian parties, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Lebanese Forces, said this week they would not back the nomination of former Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri to lead a new government to tackle the deep economic crisis, further complicating efforts to agree a new premier. “The responsibility and accountability is collective. Who among you officials has the leisure of time to delay consultations to form a government?” he said.
“No one is innocent of Lebanon’s (financial) bleeding.”
Hariri, who quit as prime minister last October in the face of the nationwide protests, has said he is ready to lead a government to implement reforms proposed by France as a way to unlock badly needed international aid.
Parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minister were due to be held last Thursday, but President Michel Aoun postponed the discussions after receiving requests for a delay from some parliamentary blocs.


Saad Hariri named new Lebanon PM, promises reform cabinet

Updated 21 min 5 sec ago

Saad Hariri named new Lebanon PM, promises reform cabinet

  • Hariri immediately promised a government of technocrats committed to a French-backed reform plan
  • He has previously led three governments in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Three-time Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri was named to the post for a fourth time Thursday and immediately promised a government of technocrats committed to a French-backed reform plan.
Hariri said he would “form a cabinet of non politically aligned experts with the mission of economic, financial and administrative reforms contained in the French initiative roadmap.”
“I will work on forming a government quickly because time is running out and this is the only and last chance facing our country,” he added.
President Michel Aoun named Hariri to form a new cabinet to lift the country out of crisis after most parliamentary blocs backed his nomination.
Hariri, who has previously led three governments in Lebanon, stepped down almost a year ago under pressure from unprecedented protests against the political class.
“The president summoned... Saad Al-Deen Al-Hariri to task him with forming a government,” a spokesman for the presidency said.
Hariri was backed by a majority of 65 lawmakers, while 53 abstained.
Lebanon is grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades and still reeling from a devastating port blast that killed more than 200 people and ravaged large parts of Beirut in August.
Aoun warned Wednesday that the new prime minister, the third in a year, would have to spearhead reforms and battle corruption.
A relatively unknown diplomat, Mustapha Adib, had been nominated in late August following the resignation of his predecessor Hassan Diab’s government in the aftermath of the deadly port blast.
Adib had vowed to form a cabinet of experts, in line with conditions set by French President Emmanuel Macron to help rescue the corruption-ridden country from its worst ever economic crisis.
He faced resistance from some of the main parties however and threw in the towel nearly a month later, leaving Lebanon rudderless to face soaring poverty and the aftermath of its worst peacetime disaster.