US envoy David Hale meets Lebanese leaders amid protests at new prime minister

US envoy David Hale meets Lebanese leaders amid protests at new prime minister
US envoy David Hale meets Lebanese leaders amid protests at new prime minister

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale met Lebanon’s political leaders through the weekend as protests on the streets continued in the wake of Hassan Diab being named prime minister-designate.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered near the Beirut home of Mr Diab, an academic at the American University of Beirut and former education minister. Security forces moved in quickly after his appointment last week to secure the apartment building and surrounding street.

Many have denounced the appointment of Mr Diab, calling instead for a true technocrat to lead the next administration despite the new appointee saying he will priorities experts over political candidates.

Mr Diab was propelled to the post on Thursday by Lebanon’s March 8 bloc – led by the backing of Hezbollah, Amal and the Free Patriotic Movement.

Lebanon has been rocked by two months of anti-government protest with thousands taking to the streets to denounce years of corruption, ineffectual leadership, crumbling public services and the worst financial crisis since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Meanwhile, Mr Hale, who previously served as US ambassador to Beirut, met Progressive Socialist leader Walid Jumblatt, who described the conversation it in a tweet afterwards as “friendly and honest.”

He also met Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and caretaker foreign minister Gibran Bassil, who is also head of the PFP.

Mr Hale met on Friday with President Michel Aoun and caretaker prime minister Saad Hariri.

In a press briefing from Baabda, Mr Hale said he was in Lebanon at the request of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss the situation. “I’m here to encourage Lebanon’s political leaders to commit to and undertake meaningful, sustained reforms that can lead to a stable, prosperous and secure Lebanon. And that was the content of the conversation I just had with president Aoun. It is time to put aside the partisan interest for the national interest advancing reforms and forming a government that is committed to and capable of doing so.

He said the US has no role in saying who should and who should comprise any cabinet but added that “the unified nonsectarian and largely peaceful protests over the last 65 days … [shows] the Lebanese people’s longstanding and quite frankly legitimate demand for economic and institutional reform, better governance and an end to endemic corruption.”

He urged the security forces to continue to protect the right of protesters and added that “violence has no place in civil discourse.”

Updated: December 22, 2019 07:29 PM

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