Le­banon PM-des­ig­nate vows ex­pert govt but faces protests

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Beirut, Le­banon - Le­banon’s prime min­is­ter-des­ig­nate Has­san Diab vowed on Fri­day to form a gov­ern­ment of non-po­lit­i­cal ex­perts to lead the protesthit coun­try back from the verge of eco­nomic col­lapse.

But Le­banon’s sec­tar­ian pol­i­tics flared again as Sunni pro­test­ers ral­lied and block­aded roads with burn­ing car tyres to protest the nom­i­na­tion of Diab, who has the sup­port of Shi­ite group Hezbol­lah and its al­lies.

Diab, a 60 year old en­gi­neer­ing pro­fes­sor, vowed to form a gov­ern­ment made of tech­nocrats that should win ‘full sup­port from Europe and the US’ and open Le­banon up to bad­lyneeded Western aid. He re­jected the idea that his back­ing by Hezbol­lah, which is black­listed as a ter­ror­ist group by Wash­ing­ton, would stand in the way.

“I think the Amer­i­cans, when such a gov­ern­ment is formed, will lend sup­port be­cause it is a gov­ern­ment that aims to res­cue Le­banon,” he told broad­caster Deutsche Welle.

Over the past two months, the Le­banese pound - pegged to the US dol­lar - has lost around 30 per cent on the black mar­ket, while many com­pa­nies have slashed wages and laid off staff.

US envoy David Hale, vis­it­ing Le­banon, said Wash­ing­ton was ready to help - pro­vided Le­banon forms a new gov­ern­ment marked by ‘good gov­er­nance and free­dom from cor­rup­tion’.

Diab’s prom­ise of an ex­pert gov­ern­ment that is above com­mu­nal pol­i­tics is in line with the de­mands of a two-months-old protest move­ment which ac­cuses the po­lit­i­cal elite of be­ing in­ept, cor­rupt and loyal only to their sec­tar­ian groups.

The na­tion­wide protest move­ment has railed against a pow­er­shar­ing sys­tem in force since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war un­der which the premier is a Sunni, the pres­i­dent a Ma­ronite Chris­tian and the par­lia­men­tary speaker a Shi­ite.

Diab promised to meet on Sun­day with fig­ures from the protest move­ment and asked them to give him ‘a chance’ - de­spite the fact that the move­ment has stressed its is spon­ta­neous and has pre­vi­ously re­jected di­a­logue with main­stream politi­cians.

Hariri sup­port­ers, army, clash

The un­prece­dented protests brought down prime min­is­ter Saad Hariri in Oc­to­ber, deep­en­ing the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal tur­moil.

Diab was des­ig­nated on Thurs­day but in a sign that sec­tar­ian power blocs re­main paramount, he was not backed by the main par­lia­men­tary bloc of his Sunni com­mu­nity.

Diab was to start Satur­day con­sul­ta­tions with the par­lia­men­tary blocs to cre­ate his gov­ern­ment, but Hariri’s party has de­cided it ‘will not par­tic­i­pate in the next gov­ern­ment’, ac­cord­ing to a close source.

Diab was also an­grily op­posed by Sunni pro­test­ers. For a se­cond straight day, se­cu­rity forces in a Sunni district of Beirut scuf­fled with crowds of young men, mainly Hariri sup­port­ers, who tried to block roads.

On Fri­day evening Hariri sup­port­ers clashed with the army in a western district of Beirut as troops tried to open a main road the demon­stra­tors had blocked, AFP cor­re­spon­dents said.

Pro­test­ers hurled stones and fire­works at the soldiers, prompt­ing riot-po­lice to intervene and fire tear gas.

In the mainly Sunni north­ern city of Tripoli, schools were closed and Diab op­po­nents also block­aded roads and called for a gen­eral strike. The un­rest early in the day prompted Hariri to call on his sup­port­ers to stop the protests, his se­cond such ap­peal in two days.

Diab on pro­to­col vis­its to exPMs on Fri­day met Hariri and other Sunni po­lit­i­cal fig­ures who had not en­dorsed his nom­i­na­tion the pre­vi­ous day.

Fol­low­ing the meet­ings, Diab said he wanted to form ‘a gov­ern­ment of in­de­pen­dent tech­nocrats’ and added that ‘Hariri is giv­ing his full sup­port to the for­ma­tion of this gov­ern­ment’.

Hale, the US un­der sec­re­tary of state for po­lit­i­cal af­fairs, said Wash­ing­ton has ‘no role in say­ing who should lead’ or make up the next Cabi­net.


Le­banese prime min­is­ter-des­ig­nate Has­san Diab at his res­i­dence in the cap­i­tal Beirut on Thurs­day

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