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Lebanese prime minister-designate resigns amid impasse

(A handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra on September 17, 2020 shows Lebanon’s prime minister-designate Mustapha Adib. Photo: File-AFP)

BEIRUT (AP):- Lebanon’s prime minister-designate resigned Saturday amid a political impasse over government formation, nearly a month after he was appointed to the job.

The announced by Moustapha Adib deals a blow to French President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to break a dangerous stalemate in the crisis-hit country.

The French leader has been pressing Lebanese politicians to form a Cabinet made up of independent specialists that can work on enacting urgent reforms to extract Lebanon from a devastating economic and financial crisis worsened by the Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut port.

But efforts by the French-supported Adib have hit multiple snags, after the country’s main Shiite groups, Hezbollah and Amal, insisted on retaining hold of the key Finance Ministry. Their insistence emerged after the U.S. administration slapped sanctions on two senior politicians close to Hezbollah, including the ex-finance minister.

The two groups also insisted on naming the Shiite ministers in the new Cabinet and objected to the manner in which Adib was forming the government, without consulting with them.

Adib announced his decision to step down following a meeting with President Michel Aoun on Saturday.

Lebanon, a former French protectorate, is mired in the country’s worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history. It defaulted on paying back its debt for the first time ever in March, and the local currency has collapsed, leading to hyperinflation and soaring poverty and unemployment.

The crisis has been worsened by the Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut’s port caused by the detonation of thousands of tons of ammonium nitrates. It killed nearly 200 people, injured thousands and caused losses worth billions of dollars.

The country is in desperate need of financial assistance but France and other international powers have refused to provide aid before serious reforms are made. The crisis is largely blamed on decades of systematic corruption and mismanagement by Lebanon’s ruling class.

The French leader has described his initiative, which includes a road map and a timetable for reforms, as “the last chance for this system.”

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