BEIRUT, CAIRO: After he presented a 24-minister cabinet lineup to Lebanon President Michel Aoun on Wednesday, prime minister-designate Saad Al-Hariri is expected to either step down or go on with his mission.
If the proposal is approved, it could end a political stalemate that has pushed the country toward social and economic collapse for the past nine months. If Aoun does not approve, Hariri has vowed to resign.
“Now is the moment of truth,” Hariri told reporters after delivering the proposal to the presidential palace in Beirut. “This cabinet can help the country rise again and put an end to the collapse,”
Hariri, who was designated in October, said he was expecting Aoun’s response on Thursday and he “will be making his decision accordingly.”
The proposal does not give a blocking third to any political side and came after French Presidential Envoy Patrick Durel and Mahmoud Mohieldin, the executive director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), renewed pressure on Lebanese officials to form a government.
Lebanon has been without a functioning government since the previous one resigned in the wake of the Aug. 4 Beirut port blast that claimed the lives of 215 people, injured 6,000 more, and destroyed Beirut’s waterfront along with large sections of neighboring residential areas.
Hariri presented his cabinet proposal to Aoun during a 30-minute meeting at the presidential palace, and according to a source close to Hariri, “the proposal for a cabinet includes new names.”
Hariri presented his proposal to Aoun after he made a brief visit to Cairo on Wednesday where he met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Sources in Cairo said Egypt had promised economic and political support for a new government and that a delegation would travel to Beirut soon.
El-Sisi stressed “Egypt’s support for Hariri’s path aimed at restoring stability in Lebanon, addressing current challenges, and for his attempts to form a government … Lebanon must put national interests above any other interests, thus preserving the capacities of the brotherly Lebanese people and its national unity.”
Hariri also held talks with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.
On the second day of his visit to Beirut, Durel met with Aoun and reminded him of “France’s readiness to continue supporting and helping Lebanon.”
According to the media bureau of Lebanon’s presidential palace, Durel focused on the formation of a new government and wants Lebanon to start “implementing the reforms that France and the international community have been calling for.”
Aoun said he hoped Hariri would carry “positive indications” after his meeting with El-Sisi so the country could overcome “nine months of political deadlock with unbearable living conditions.”
Regarding the investigations over the Beirut blast, Aoun said “there will be no political cover for any negligent or guilty person.”
Mohieldin, who also met with Aoun and parliament speaker Nabih Berri, said the IMF would propose a package of solutions and proposals to help the country exit the current situation. He announced that the IMF will allocate $860 million for Lebanon as part of a program worth $650 billion “to be distributed to 190 countries in the next couple months.”
Lebanon’s parliament approved a ration card law on June 30 to support the most vulnerable families, replacing the current subsidies system.
The central news agency stated that “Durel announced his country’s categorical rejection to use IMF’s assistance to fund the ration card.” He insisted on using the IMF funds for infrastructure development projects, such as the rehabilitation of the refineries in Tripoli and Al-Zahrani to benefit from the Iraqi oil.
“The amount to be granted by the IMF can be used for so many other projects that can help reduce the burdens and replenish the state’s treasury in the long term,” Durel said, according to the news agency.
He also suggested using IMF funds for the establishment of a public transportation network, a gas-fired power plant, or the development and rehabilitation of the cell phone network in the country.