Consultations to choose new PM in protest-hit Lebanon delayed

BEIRUT (AFP) – The president in protest-wracked Lebanon last Sunday postponed parliamentary consultations to nominate a new prime minister after religious leaders threw their support behind ex-premier Saad Hariri returning to the post.

A statement from the presidency said parliamentary consultations to choose a new prime minister were delayed “at the request of most parliamentary blocs” and to “allow for more deliberations”.

The postponement comes after religious leaders reached a consensus to back Hariri returning to office, a sidelined candidate said.

Businessman Samir Khatib had been put forward as a likely contender to succeed Hariri, but he said a visit to the country’s highest Muslim authority had indicated otherwise. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdellatif Deryan informed Khatib that “a consensus had been reached to name Saad Hariri as prime minister to form the next government”, the 72-year-old businessman said.

Khatib then met Hariri, who has stayed on in the role of caretaker premier and has supported him in his bid, to inform him of his withdrawal from the race, he said in televised comments.

Lebanon has been gripped by unprecedented cross-sectarian protests since October 17, denouncing perceived official mismanagement and corruption.

Hariri stepped down less than two weeks into the nationwide movement, but a deeply divided political class has since failed to reach an agreement on a new premier.

Protesters scuffle with riot police as they try to open a road leading to the parliament building, during ongoing protests against the Lebanese political class, in Beirut, Lebanon. PHOTO: AP