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World News

Lebanese ambassador Adib poised to be designated PM

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s ambassador to Germany Mustapha Adib is poised to be designated prime minister on Monday after winning the support of major parties to form a new government facing a crippling financial crisis and the aftermath of the Beirut port explosion.

The nomination followed contacts by French President Emmanuel Macron over the last 48 hours to press Lebanese leaders to agree on a candidate, two senior Lebanese officials said, just ahead of a visit by the French leader to Lebanon this week.

Macron has taken centre stage in international efforts to get Lebanon’s fractious leaders to start addressing a financial crisis that had devastated the economy even before the Aug. 4 port blast that killed some 190 people.

A French presidency source said Macron had been in contact by phone with the main protagonists on Saturday and Sunday. “The president is informed of the negotiations underway in Beirut,” the source said. Macron arrives in Beirut late on Monday.

Last week, contacts among Lebanese leaders to agree a new prime minister were deadlocked. One of the two senior Lebanese sources said Macron’s role had been essential in clinching the agreement on Adib.

The previous government led by Hassan Diab quit on Aug. 10 over the port blast in which a massive amount of unsafely stored chemicals detonated.

Adib has a doctorate in law and political science and previously served as an adviser to Najib Mikati, a former prime minister. He has served as ambassador to Germany since 2013.

The post of prime minister must go to a Sunni Muslim in Lebanon’s sectarian system. Adib’s candidacy won vital political backing on Sunday from former prime ministers including Saad al-Hariri, who heads the biggest Sunni party, the Future Movement.

President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian, is due to meet parliamentary blocs on Monday in the official consultations to designate the new premier. He is required to nominate the candidate with biggest level of support among MPs.

Lebanon’s dominant Shi’ite parties, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement led by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, will both name Adib at the consultations, a senior Shi’ite source said.

The Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), a political ally of Hezbollah which was founded by Aoun and is led today by his son-in-law Gebran Bassil, will do the same, Bassil told Reuters.

Once designated, the process of forming a new government will get underway. Until a new administration is agreed, the Diab government continues in a caretaker capacity.

Lebanon’s financial crisis has sunk the currency by as much as 80% since October, locked savers out their deposits in a paralysed banking system and fuelled poverty and unemployment.

Lebanon launched talks with the International Monetary Fund in May, after defaulting on its huge debt, aiming to secure financial support but these have stalled amid divisions on the Lebanese side over the scale of losses in the financial system.

Reporting by Laila Basam and Tom Perry in Beirut and Elizabeth Pineau in Paris; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Ghaida Ghantous, Andrew Heavens and David Evans

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