PM-designate begins tough talks to form govt

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s prime minister-designate launched consultations on Saturday to form a desperately-needed government for a protest-hit country facing economic collapse amid political rifts over the cabinet’s line-up.
Debt-burdened Lebanon has been without a fully functioning government since former prime minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29 in the face of nationwide protests.
Demonstrators are demanding an overhaul of the political establishment which they deem corrupt and inept, insisting on a government of independents and experts with no ties to the country’s sectarian parties.
Hassan Diab, a 60-year-old engineering professor, was designated prime minister on Thursday.
But Hariri’s bloc did not endorse his nomination, along with other key Christian and Druze parties and have said they will not take part in Diab’s government.
Diab, considered a technocrat, is hoping to set up the new cabinet within four to six weeks and has said he wanted to choose experts to join the line-up, calling on demonstrators to give him a “chance” to carry out the task.
The challenges he must overcome became clear however from the onset of Saturday’s talks with various officials and lawmakers.
Parliament speaker Nabih Berri said he “insists on securing representation for all parliamentary groups,” in the next government — a position shared by his Amal party and Hizbullah.
Samir al Jisr, a deputy from Hariri’s Future Movement, urged Diab to form a government “of independent experts not affiliated with established political parties,” to rescue Lebanon from the brink of collapse.
“Considering that this government, just like Diab’s nomination, will be supported by only one political stripe, then its formation should take less than” a month or six weeks, he said after meeting the premier-designate.
He was referring to allies Hizbullah, Amal and the Free Patriotic Movement founded by Christian President Michel Aoun who chose Diab to form a cabinet. — AFP