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French President Issues Another Ultimatum To Lebanon’s Political Factions Following Would-Be PM’s Resignation

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French President Issues Another Ultimatum To Lebanon’s Political Factions Following Would-Be PM’s Resignation

Lebanon has been convulsed by a severe economic crisis and mass protests since late last year. Then the country was hit by the pandemic and the blast at Lebanon’s main port.

Following Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib announcement of his resignation on Saturday in the midst of a deadlock over the formation of a new government, French President Emmanuel Macron has given Lebanese political leaders an ultimatum to form a new government within six weeks during a televised speech on Sunday.         

Macron had earlier threatened Lebanese leaders with sanctions if they do not agree to reforms and a political change, saying on Sunday that he was “ashamed of Lebanon’s political leaders”.

Speaking in Paris during a news conference that was devoted to the latest events in Lebanon, Macron stated that the Lebanese political leaders had “decided to betray this commitment” to form a government by mid-September.

Macron also accused the Lebanese authorities and political forces of favouring “their partisan and individual interests to the detriment of the general interest of the country”.

The French president had initially proposed a roadmap to Lebanese authorities as a precondition to making available billions of dollars in funds from the international community during his short trip to Lebanon following the cataclysmic blast a Lebanon’s port in August.

The visit was criticized by many Twitter users over what they considered uninvited and unwanted interference in the internal affairs of Lebanon, which gained independence from French colonial rule in the 1940s.

Speaking on Sunday, although Macron said that he considered the failure to form new government a betrayal of the people of Lebanon, he proceeded to say that he would give Lebanon’s political leaders another  4-6 weeks to form a new government before punitive measures might be considered.

When asked whether sanctions might be imposed on individual politicians or political factions if no progress were made, Macron said he would only consider them at a later stage in conjunction with other possible steps as they would not serve any tangible purpose at the moment.

Adib announced his resignation almost a month after he was appointed by the president to form a new government in a televised address on Saturday following a meeting with President Michel Aoun.

Adib, who formerly served as ambassador to Berlin, was picked on August 31 to form a cabinet after the government led by Hassan Diab resigned following the Beirut port blast on August 4. LINK

Hassan Diab had spent many months in a futile effort to get the ruling political factions to agree to a set of fundamental reforms that would provide a basis for tackling the rampant corruption in the country’s political and economic institutions and trying to track down some of the many billions of dollars that have disappeared from the Treasury into offshore accounts. Early on in his lonely anti-corruption campaign one analyst observed:

Politicians want Mr Diab to stop digging up ancient corruption files, and to keep things as they were. The opposition – supported by the Shia Speaker Nabih Berri, the Sunni former PM Saad Hariri, the Druse Leader Walid Jumblat and the Maronite “Lebanese Forces” Leader Samir Geagea – are challenging Prime Minister Diab. They are trying to prevent him from reaching his objectives. These objectives are not limited to claiming back the funds transferred, they also aim to remove the governor of the Central Bank in a bid to avoid a bankrupt state. LINK

Many commentators have hastened to blame the failure to form a new government on the two dominant Shia parties – ‘Iran-backed’ Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal Movement. However, it seems that noone is prepared to take on the responsibility of governing the country in its current condition, at the same time as they are determined to prevent anyone else from doing so.

French President Issues Another Ultimatum To Lebanon’s Political Factions Following Would-Be PM’s Resignation

Emblematic of the long standing breakdown in governance, a street in Beirut filled with garbage in 2016.

Although Macron singled out Hezbollah for criticism, no political factions was spared from his scathing critique. During the speech the French president warned that Hezbollah should “not think it is more powerful than it is.”

“It must show that it respects all the Lebanese. And in recent days, it has clearly shown the opposite.

Hizbullah cannot be an army in a war against Israel and a militia taking part in Syria’s war and still be a respectable party in Lebanon.

Amal and Hizbullah decided that nothing should change in Lebanon and I understood that Hizbullah did not honour the pledge it made to me.”

Macron did not limit his sharp criticism to Hizbullah, saying none of the leaders of Lebanon had been up to the task.

“All of them bet on the worst case scenario for the sake of saving themselves, the interests of their family or their clan…

I therefore have decided to take note of this collective betrayal and the refusal of Lebanese officials to engage in good faith.”

The French leader also weighed in with the opinion that ex-PM Saad Hariri had “erred by adding a sectarian factor to the roadmap” of forming a new government.

Mustafa Allouch, a member of the Future Movement, said that it appeared that the French president was criticizing everyone so that nobody could accuse him of bias.

“Macron directly criticizing President Michel Aoun, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, along with the rest of the Lebanese parties including the Future Movement, was aimed at holding everyone responsible so that nobody can consider he is siding with a party against another,” he told Arab News. LINK

Hezbollah responded to Macron’s complaints and accusations on Monday:

Hizbullah’s al-Manar TV blasted French President Emmanuel Macron in its main news editorial Monday night, telling him that Hizbullah “is and will remain an army facing Israel and will keep supporting Syria and its people against extremists.”

It added that Hizbullah and its allies are not to blame for PM-designate Mustafa Adib’s failure in forming a Cabinet, saying that Macron’s threats of possible sanctions in the future against politicians are “unjustified and unacceptable.”

Al-Manar also asked whether Macron wants Hizbullah and its allies, who have majority seats in Parliament, to give power to groups allied with the United States. LINK

The leader of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, is scheduled to make a televised address to the nation on Tuesday evening.

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