After delays, Lebanon President holds talks on naming new PM

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s President held long-delayed talks with parliamentary blocs yesterday to discuss the naming of a new prime minister amid an unprecedented political and economic crisis and weeks of nationwide protests roiling the country.

The meeting came after caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri withdrew his name for the nomination as the blocs could not agree on backing him.

The protesters on the streets have already rejected his nomination.

The talks between President Michel Aoun and representatives of the 128-member Parliament were delayed twice and come after days of violence, the worst Lebanon has seen since protests erupted in mid-October.

The clashes have involved security forces and anti-government protesters, as well as supporters of Lebanon’s two main Shiite groups, Hezbollah and Amal. University professor and former Minister of Education Hassan Diab has emerged as a possible candidate. For a nomination, he needs the backing of at least half of the lawmakers. In Lebanon’s sectarian-based political system, the Prime Minister has to be from the Sunni community.

Lebanese politicians have been unable to agree on a new government since Hariri resigned in late October in response to the protests, which were initially sparked by a tanking economy and united the Lebanese against their leaders.

The Western-backed Hariri had, until this week, hoped to be named premier again but failed to get the support from Christian Parliamentary blocs.

“It has become clear to me that, despite my categorical commitment to forming a government of specialists, the positions are not changing, I therefore announce that I will not be a candidate to form the next government,” Hariri said in a statement on Wednesday. Protesters in the streets said they want new faces to govern Lebanon, one of the world’s most indebted countries in the world.

File photo of resigned Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrives to attend a military parade in Yarzeh near Beirut. PHOTO: AP