11th September, 2021
Sunni Muslim tycoon Najib Mikati will lead a new government in Lebanon, Lebanese leaders agreed on Friday.
The agreement followed a year of feuding over cabinet seats that has exacerbated a devastating economic collapse.
Mikati government will open the way to a resumption of talks with the IMF.
The breakthrough, followed a flurry of contacts with France, which has led efforts to get Lebanon’s fractious leaders to agree a cabinet and begin reforms since last year’s catastrophic Beirut port explosion.
However, one French diplomatic source said Paris had played a constructive role in bringing the government together.
The source added that some scepticism remained over whether Mikati would be able to carry out the necessary reforms.
In televised comments, Mikati’s eyes welled up with tears and his voice broke as he described the hardship and emigration inflicted by the crisis, which has forced three quarters of the Lebanese population into poverty.
The crisis, the biggest threat to Lebanon’s stability since the 1975-90 civil war, hit a crunch point last month when fuel shortages brought much of the country to a standstill.
This triggered numerous security incidents, adding to Western concern and warnings of worse to come unless something is done.
To secure foreign aid, the government must succeed where its forerunners have failed in enacting reforms to address the root causes of the crisis, including state corruption.
Parliamentary elections are due next spring and Mikati said these should take place on time.
Mikati and President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian, signed the decree establishing the government in the presence of Nabih Berri, the Shi’ite Muslim speaker of parliament.
Mikati said divisive politics must be set to one side and that he could not engage in talks with the International Monetary Fund if he encountered opposition at home.
He pledged to seek support from Arab countries, a number of which have shunned Lebanon because of the extensive influence wielded in Beirut by the heavily armed, Iran-backed Shi’ite Islamist group Hezbollah, which is allied to Aoun.
Addressing the daily hardships, Mikati described how mothers had been forced to cut back on milk for their children.