Lebanon's Gebran Bassil backs technocrat government without Saad Hariri

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Lebanon's Free Patriotic Movement will back a new government made up entirely of technocrats, but not with caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri at its head, its leader said, adding a further twist to a political crisis triggered by two months of anti-government protests.

Caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, who heads the Christian party founded by his father-in-law, President Michel Aoun, outlined its position at a press conference on Thursday night.

"Should Hariri insist on the 'nobody but me' approach, and should Hezbollah and Amal Movement hold on to a technopolitical government led by Hariri, we have no interest in partaking in such a Cabinet as it is doomed to failure," Mr Bassil was quoted as saying by Lebanon's National News Agency.

"The solution is clear, which is the formation of an effective rescue government, a government of experts whose members and head are specialists capable of restoring people's confidence, and who are backed by political forces and parliamentary blocs," he said.

Mr Bassil's statement reverses his party's earlier opposition to the protest movement's call for established political leaders to make way for a government of technocrats. The protesters have also said they will not accept Mr Hariri as returning prime minister.

Mr Hariri resigned as prime minister on October 29 in response to the protesters' demands.

The protesters accuse the country's politicians of corruption, failing deliver basic services and mismanaging the economy. Lebanon has been unable to access a US$11 billion assistance fund pledged last year because the government has been unable to implement the reforms demanded by donor countries.

Lebanese army soldiers intervene as anti-government protesters (not pictured) attempt to blocks the highway during a protest at the Jal El Dib area north of Beirut, Lebanon. EPA

Lebanese anti-government protesters hold hands as they attempt to block the highway during a protest at the Jal El Dib area north of Beirut, Lebanon. EPA

Lebanese army soldiers clash with anti-government protesters as they attempt to block a highway during a protest at the Jal El Dib area north of Beirut, Lebanon. EPA

Lebanese army soldiers clash with anti-government protesters as they attempt to block a highway during a protest at the Jal El Dib area north of Beirut, Lebanon. EPA

Lebanese army soldiers leave after arresting at least five people who tried to block the highway during an anti-government protest at the Jal El Dib area north of Beirut, Lebanon. EPA

Lebanese army soldiers arrest an anti-government protester as he attempts to block the highway during a protest at the Jal El Dib area north of Beirut, Lebanon. EPA

Lebanese army soldiers intervene as anti-government protesters attempt to block the highway during a protest at the Jal El Dib area north of Beirut, Lebanon. EPA

Lebanese army soldiers intervene as anti-government protesters attempt to block the highway during a protest at the Jal El Dib area north of Beirut, Lebanon. EPA

Mr Hariri has supported the call for a government of technocrats but remains the most likely candidate to head one. The country's top Sunni religious leader called Mr Hariri the preferred candidate, rejecting another proposed name. Hezbollah also want him to head a mixed government of technocrats and politicians.

Under Lebanon's sectarian-based political system, the prime minister is chosen from the Sunni community, the president is a Christian and the speaker of Parliament a Shiite.

Consultations between President Aoun and parliamentary blocs to name a new premier are expected on Monday. They were postponed once before over disagreements on naming a new premier.

Mr Hariri told the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund's top executives on Thursday that he was committed to preparing an urgent rescue plan to alleviate the country’s worsening economic crisis, according to a statement from his office.

He discussed the technical assistance they could provide for such a plan and asked for increased financial support from the World Bank's International Finance Corporation to ensure the country's imports are uninterrupted amid a deepening foreign currency crisis.

Mr Hariri’s call came a day after an international group of Lebanon’s allies said the country cannot expect to receive aid unless a new government is formed to institute major reforms.

The caretaker prime minister wrote to leaders of several countries last week seeking help to keep up the import of essential goods into Lebanon.

Updated: December 13, 2019 02:48 PM

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