December 20, 2019 / 11:58 AM / 2 months ago

Lebanon's new PM aims to form government within six weeks - Deutsche Welle interview

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s new prime minister designate Hassan Diab said in an interview with Deutsche Welle he will work on forming a government within six weeks to help pull the country out of a deepening economic and political crisis.

FILE PHOTO: Hassan Diab talks to the media after being named Lebanon's new prime minister, at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon December 19, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo

Diab, an academic and former education minister, was designated on Thursday as the country’s next prime minister with the support of Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies.

“Previous governments in the last decade took a year to form and I seek to form a government in the next four weeks or a period that does not exceed six weeks,” Diab said.

The designation set the stage for a cabinet that excludes allies of the United States and Sunni Gulf Arab countries while underlining the influence of Iran’s friends in Lebanon. The move would complicate efforts to secure Western financial aid, analysts say.

Senior U.S. State Department official David Hale, who arrived on Friday to underline Washington’s support for Lebanon’s stability, urged the country’s bickering political leaders to implement speedy economic reforms.

“I am here to encourage Lebanese political leaders to commit and undertake meaningful, sustained reforms that can lead to a stable, prosperous, secure Lebanon,” Under-Secretary David Hale said after meeting President Michel Aoun at Lebanon’s Baabda palace.

“It’s time to put aside partisan interests and act in the national interest, advancing reforms and form a government committed to undertaking these reforms and capable of doing so,” Hale added.

Lebanon, in its worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war, has been seeking a new government since Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri resigned on Oct. 29 in response to protests against the ruling elite.

Diab, who failed to get the support of Hariri under a sectarian political system that leaves the post of premier to a Sunni Muslim, dismissed accusations that the government would be under the thumb of Hezbollah. Hariri is the country’s main Sunni politician.

“This matter is silly because the new government will not be a government of a political grouping chosen from here or there,” Diab added.

Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Dala Osseiran, Editing by David Clarke, William Maclean

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