French Initiative Is Last Chance to Save Lebanon, Leading Politician Jumblatt Says

A Tuesday deadline Beirut had agreed with Paris for establishing new cabinet has already been missed

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French President Emmanuel Macron meets members of the military mobilized for the reconstruction of the port of Beirut, Lebanon, September 1, 2020.
French President Emmanuel Macron meets members of the military mobilized for the reconstruction of the port of Beirut, Lebanon, September 1, 2020. Credit: Stephane Lemouton/Pool via Reuters
Reuters

A French initiative is the last chance to save Lebanon from its deep crisis but some people do not seem to understand this, Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt said, echoing a warning from Paris that the country risks disappearing without reform.

Lebanon is in the throes of a crippling economic and financial meltdown that marks the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-1990 civil war. The crisis was compounded by a devastating Beirut port explosion on August 4.

France has been leaning on its fractious politicians to set up a new government to start reforming the corruption-ridden state, but a Tuesday deadline that they had agreed with Paris for establishing the new cabinet has already been missed.

Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt speaks during an interview with Reuters at his house in Beirut, February 26, 2008.
Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt speaks during an interview with Reuters at his house in Beirut, February 26, 2008.Credit: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters

"It appears that some did not understand or did not want to understand that the French initiative is the last opportunity to save Lebanon and to prevent its disappearance, as the (French) foreign minister said clearly," Jumblatt, the main figure in Lebanon's Druze community, wrote on Twitter.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said last month that Lebanon risked disappearing without critical reforms.

Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib has been seeking to form a cabinet to enact reforms set out in a French roadmap. Sources say he has been trying to switch control of ministries, many of which have been held by the same factions for years.

But major Shi'ite Muslim and Christian players in the sectarian power-sharing system have complained that Adib, a Sunni Muslim, has not been consulting them.

The most significant objections have come from Shi'ite Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, an ally of the Iran-backed Shi'ite group Hezbollah. He has insisted on naming the finance minister, a post he has decided on since 2014.

Hezbollah, a heavily armed group backed by Iran, supports his position, telling President Michel Aoun on Tuesday that Shi'ite ministers must be approved by Shi'ite parties and the finance minister should be a Shi'ite, sources say.

Former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, a Sunni whose support was critical to Adib's nomination, said no sect had the exclusive right to the Finance Ministry or other portfolios.

In a tweet, Hariri said rejecting the idea of switching control of ministries was frustrating "the last chance to save Lebanon and the Lebanese", referring to the French initiative.

Simon Abi Ramia, a lawmaker in the Christian Free Patriotic Movement, said on Twitter Lebanon faced a critical 24 hours in which either the "logic of reason" would win and a government would emerge or Adib would step down.

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