Hezbollah Leader Says Lebanon 'Has Run Out of Time,' Urges Politicians to Form New Government

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Hezbollah supporters at a rally in the southern suburb of Lebanon's capital Beirut, last year.
Hezbollah supporters at a rally in the southern suburb of Lebanon's capital Beirut, last year.Credit: ANWAR AMRO / AFP

Lebanon's Hezbollah said on Wednesday it was time for politicians to put aside their demands and allow the formation of a new government that can rescue the country from an unprecedented financial crisis.

"Everyone must know the country has run out of time," Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Iran-backed movement, said in a televised speech. He said there were "serious, collective efforts" in recent days to ease a political standoff that has obstructed cabinet talks for months.

Lebanon is hurtling towards collapse in a financial meltdown that is posing the most serious threat to its stability since the 1975-1990 civil war, but bickering politicians have been unable to form a government for months.

Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri and President Michel Aoun have been at loggerheads since October, dashing hopes of a reversal of Lebanon's deepening financial meltdown.

Hariri has said Aoun is trying to dictate cabinet seats in order to gain veto power while Aoun's party accused Hariri of trying to orchestrate a majority for himself and his allies.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun, left, whispers to Prime Minister Saad Hariri, during an event in Beirut.Credit: Hussein Malla/AP

Hezbollah, an ally of Aoun, has urged cabinet formation before.

A new cabinet could implement reforms and unlock much needed foreign aid.

President Aoun said on Wednesday the country could face chaos before it can recover from a financial meltdown.

Crushed under a mountain of debt and decades of graft, scenes of shoppers brawling over goods, protesters blocking roads, and shuttered businesses are now commonplace in Lebanon.

"I will hand over the country better than when it was handed to me ... but I fear the cost will be very high, (there) may be chaos before that," Aoun said in comments published by Lebanese television channel al-Jadeed. Aoun's term expires in 2022.

The president, whose party run by his son-in-law leads the biggest Christian bloc in parliament, told a reporter at al-Jadeed he feared the dangers looming over Lebanon threatened its very existence.

The currency has lost most of its value, making more than half the population poor. Last August's port blast, which devastated parts of Beirut and killed 200 people, deepened the country's misery.

The deadlock has persisted since Aoun warned in September that the country was going "to hell" without a new government.

Foreign donors have made clear they will not bail out Lebanon before its leaders agree a new cabinet that must launch reforms.

"I wish I inherited my grandfather's orchard and didn't take up the presidency," Jadeed cited Aoun as saying on Wednesday.

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