October 6, 2018 / 1:57 PM / a month ago

Lebanon parliament speaker says govt formation 'back to zero'

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri heads a general parliament discussion in downtown Beirut, Lebanon October 18, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/Files

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Saturday said the process of forming a government more than five months after a national election had returned “to zero”, after saying earlier this week there had been a “glimmer of hope”.

In the five months since the parliamentary election, there has been no sign of the concessions sought by Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri that would enable the formation of a unity government that can get to work on badly needed economic reforms. Politicians are warning that Lebanon faces an economic crisis.

The main sticking point in negotiations has been seen as how to satisfy the competing demands of Maronite Christian President Michel Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) on the one hand, and their Maronite rival Samir Geagea and his Lebanese Forces party on the other.

On Friday the Christian parties clashed over how power should be divided in the government, casting doubt over Hariri’s prediction on Thursday that an agreement would be reached soon.

“We have gone back to zero,” Berri told Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar. “There had been signs of a resolution, but after yesterday’s statements I have become pessimistic.”

Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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