Crisis-hit Lebanon gets Cabinet after 13-month wait

BEIRUT (AFP) – Lebanon ended a 13-month wait for a new government on Friday with the unveiling of a line-up that faces the daunting task of rescuing the country from economic meltdown.

A new Cabinet was a condition for much-needed international assistance but its ability to deliver the required reforms remains to be seen.

Billionaire Najib Mikati, Lebanon’s prime minister for the third time, made an emotional statement from the presidency vowing to leave no stone unturned in efforts to save the country from bankruptcy.

“We will make use of every second to call international bodies and ensure the basic everyday life needs,” he said, adding his Cabinet would turn to Arab countries for help.

Lebanese received the news with scepticism bordering on indifference while the EU and the UN stressed it was just a step on a long path to addressing the country’s woes.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun (L) meets with Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon. PHOTO: AP

Mikati was designated as prime minister in July after his two predecessors failed to clinch an agreement on a new line-up.

His Cabinet of newcomers include technocrats but each minister was endorsed by one or several of the factions that have dominated Lebanese politics since the 1975-1990 civil war.

The country’s hereditary political barons have so far appeared impervious to international pressure, which intensified after a deadly explosion at Beirut port in August last year. One of the world’s largest non-nuclear explosions, the blast killed more than 200 people and was widely blamed on government incompetence and corruption.

Lebanese political analyst Sami Nader argued there was little hope of a breakthrough if the dynamics that prevailed during the Cabinet line-up negotiations remained in place.

“The continuation of quota politics and bickering over every reform and decision would mean no departure from what the caretaker government was able to do,” he said.