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Lebanon's prime minister-designate steps down in blow to French initiative

Lebanon's prime minister-designate steps down in blow to French initiative
September 26, 2020

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s prime minister-designate quit on Saturday after trying for almost a month to line up a non-partisan cabinet, dealing a blow to a French bid aimed at rallying sectarian leaders to tackle the worst crisis since the nation’s 1975-1990 civil war.

Mustapha Adib, former ambassador to Berlin, was picked on Aug. 31 to form a cabinet after President Emmanuel Macron intervened to secure a consensus on naming him.

Under the French roadmap, the new government would take swift steps to tackle corruption and implement reforms needed to trigger billions of dollars of international aid to fix an economy that has been crushed by a mountain of debt.

The nation took a further knock when a huge explosion on Aug. 4 at Beirut port ruined a swathe of the capital.

Adib, a Sunni Muslim based on the sectarian system of power sharing, announced he was stepping down but said Lebanon must not abandon the French plan or squander Macron’s goodwill.

“I stress that this initiative must continue,” he said after meeting President Michel Aoun, a Christian. He wished his successor well in the “hard task” of forming a government.

Adib had sought to form a government of specialists in a nation where power is shared between Muslims and Christians and political loyalties tend to follow confessional lines.