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Envoy to Berlin backed as new Lebanese prime minister

Filed on August 31, 2020 | Last updated on August 31, 2020 at 06.06 am
Envoy, Berlin, backed, new, Lebanese prime minister

(AFP file photo)

A majority of lawmakers must decide on who to name as premier before President Michel Aoun tasks him or her with forming a new government.

Lebanon's Sunni Muslim political heavyweights on Sunday threw their support behind the ambassador to Berlin, Mustapha Adib, to be the next premier of their crisis-hit country.

Their choice of the relatively unknown 48-year-old diplomat came a day before consultations were to start towards naming a new premier in the hours before a visit from France's President Emmanuel Macron.

A majority of lawmakers must decide on who to name as premier before President Michel Aoun tasks him or her with forming a new government, an often drawn out process that can take months.

Meanwhile, Aoun called on Sunday for the proclamation of a "secular state" during a televised address to mark the upcoming centenary of the Lebanese state.

"I call for the proclamation of Lebanon as a secular state," Aoun said during a speech in which he acknowledged the need "to change the system", after an enormous explosion at Beirut's port in early August and months of deepening economic crisis.

A group of former prime ministers, including top Sunni political figure Saad Hariri, announced they had decided on Adib after reviewing several names.

"Those meeting agreed to name ambassador Mustapha Adib to be prime minister," said former premier Fouad Siniora in a statement, stressing the need for speedy government formation.

Lebanon's last government, headed by Hassan Diab, resigned after a massive explosion of ammonium nitrate at the capital's port on August 4 that killed at least 188 people, wounded thousands, and laid waste to large parts of central Beirut.

That disaster came off the heels of the country's worst economic crisis in decades as well as a coronavirus outbreak and widespread popular discontent with the political class.

Those who took part in mass protests from October 17 against politicians they deem corrupt and inept have already rejected any name that might emerge from the parliamentary consultations.

"We reject the outcome of parliamentary consultations, which is already known in advance and will, as usual, lead to a so-called government of national unity, one that is cooked up abroad," said Naji Abou Khalil, a member of the National Bloc opposition party.

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