Lebanon's Hezbollah Accuses U.S. of 'Obstructing Efforts' to Form Cabinet

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Head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc Mohamed Raad speaks at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon, August 31, 2020.
Head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc Mohamed Raad speaks at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon, August 31, 2020. Credit: MOHAMED AZAKIR/ REUTERS

Lebanon's Hezbollah accused the U.S. administration on Thursday of obstructing the formation of a new Lebanese government, as faltering efforts to form a cabinet have cast doubt on prospects for a French initiative to lift the nation out of crisis.

Hezbollah, a Shi'ite Muslim movement backed by Iran that Washington deems a terrorist group, is one of the parties at the heart of a dispute that has complicated the process.

France has been leaning on Lebanon's fractious, sectarian leaders to form the government to carry out economic reforms to address the deepest crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

A deadline agreed between Lebanese politicians and Paris for forming the government passed on Tuesday without progress.

Hezbollah and its Shi'ite ally the Amal Movement insist on naming Shi'ite ministers in the cabinet and say its ministers must include the finance minister.

Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc said the French initiative was important but said the U.S. administration "is the one responsible for obstructing the efforts to form the government".

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned France that its efforts to resolve the crisis in Lebanon would be in vain without immediately tackling the issue of Hezbollah's weaponry.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, the Amal chief, became more insistent on naming the finance minister after Washington last week imposed sanctions on his senior aide for corruption and enabling Hezbollah, political sources from several parties say.

The aide, Ali Hassan Khalil, previously served as finance minister.

Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc indicated a cabinet might still be formed, saying it "still sees the opportunity available to renew that which was wrecked by those who handling, in the shadows, the operation of forming the new government".

Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib, a Sunni Muslim named under French pressure, has been working on proposals to switch control of ministries, many of which have been held by the same factions for years, political sources say.

Adib, who has the critical backing of former prime minister Saad al-Hariri, Lebanon's leading Sunni politician, said he did not want to deviate from his mission of forming a government of specialist ministers, a source close to him said.

Adib said that, if a government of specialist ministers could not be formed, then a different approach would be needed but said "this does not correspond with the mission I was tasked with," according to the source.

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