Lebanese Foreign Minister quits over lack of will to reform

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s Foreign Minister resigned on Monday amid a severe economic and financial crisis gripping the country, warning that a lack of vision and a will to make changes is risking turning Lebanon into a “failed state”.

Nassif Hitti is the first Cabinet minister to step down from his post amid the crisis, which poses as the most significant threat to the country since a devastating 15-year civil war ended in 1990.

His resignation is a blow to Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government, which has struggled to implement reforms amid rapidly spiralling inflation and soaring unemployment and poverty, made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

A few hours later, Diab held a meeting with President Michel Aoun after which Charbel Wahbe, a presidential adviser, was appointed to succeed Hitti as Foreign Minister.

Hitti, after submitting his resignation to Diab, left the government house without making any comments earlier on Monday. Later, he issued a strongly worded statement explaining his resignation, saying the government had failed to manage the crisis and implement the required reforms to save the country.

“After giving it a lot of honest thought, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot perform my duties in these historical circumstances,” Hitti said. He said he had decided to resign “due to the absence of a vision for Lebanon and the absence of an effective will to achieve comprehensive structural reform”.

In a stark warning, he said Lebanon was turning into a “failed state” and urged politicians to rally around the country’s national interest.

“I took part in this government to work for one boss called Lebanon. I found in my country multiple bosses and conflicting interests,” he said. “If they do not come together in the interest of the Lebanese people, the ship will sink with everyone on board.”

Lebanese Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti. PHOTO: AP