Lebanon's Saad al-Hariri said on Wednesday he is not a candidate for prime minister but insisted that formal consultations to designate a new premier take place on Thursday as scheduled.
"I announce that I will not be a candidate to form the coming government," Hariri, prime minister in the outgoing government, said in a statement.
Hariri, Lebanon's leading Sunni politician, made the statement on the eve of formal consultations to designate the new prime minister, a post reserved for a Sunni in Lebanon's sectarian system.
"I am heading tomorrow to take part in the consultations ... on this basis, insisting that they not be delayed for any reason," he said.
Hariri did not say who he would nominate for the post in the consultations which President Michel Aoun is due to host on Thursday. Aoun, a Maronite Christian, is required to designate the candidate with the most support among Lebanon's 128 MPs.
The only candidate with the support of Lebanon's Sunni Muslim religious establishment, Hariri had appeared the only candidate for the job earlier this week despite political tension with adversaries including Aoun.
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But the picture was complicated when the Christian Lebanese Forces said it would name neither Hariri nor anyone else in the consultations, meaning his candidacy would not enjoy the support of either of Lebanon's two main Christian parties.
Lebanon is enduring its worst economic and financial crisis in decades with a massive debt, widespread layoffs and unprecedented capital controls imposed by local banks amid a shortage in liquidity.
Hariri resigned after protests began earlier in October over widespread corruption and mismanagement. The palace said Hariri had asked Aoun to allow for more time for discussions among political groups before official consultations.