Talks to name Lebanese PM delayed until Thursday

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Aden - Yasmin Abdel Azim - Anti-government protesters remove the fences that was divided between them and the riot police, during a protest near the parliament square, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Beirut: The Lebanese presidency said it had delayed consultations to designate a new prime minister until Thursday in response to a request from caretaker leader Saad al-Hariri, who had been expected to be named premier again.

Hariri had requested the delay to the consultations, which had been scheduled for Monday, in a phone call with President Michel Aoun to allow “more consultation on the subject of the government formation”, the presidency said in a statement.

There was no immediate comment from Hariri’s office.

Lebanon is in urgent need of a new government to tackle the worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.

Hariri, who is aligned with Western and Gulf Arab states, resigned as prime minister on Oct. 29 in response to mass protests against the ruling elite over decades of state corruption and bad governance.

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Anti-government protester in Beirut near the parliament square on December 15. Image Credit: AP

He has said he would only return as prime minister of a cabinet of specialist ministers, believing this would satisfy protesters and allow the government to address the crisis and attract foreign aid.

His political adversaries, including Aoun and the powerful, Iran-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah, say the new cabinet should include politicians alongside technocrats.

Lebanon’s prime minister, who must be a Sunni Muslim, is appointed in binding consultations convened by the head of state with lawmakers. The president must designate the candidate with the greatest support among the 128 lawmakers.

Hariri has been seen as the only candidate for the position since the failure of efforts to form a consensus on several other Sunni figures, and he enjoys the backing of the Sunni religious establishment.

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