Lebanon PM creates new cabinet to end country’s political crisis


Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab formed a new government which was approved by President Michel Aoun, ending almost three months of political crisis amid on-going protests.

The prime minister and Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri went to the presidential palace late on Tuesday night, January 21, where they met the president before the names of the new ministers were read out.

“The new government is a rescue team. It is important now to preserve stability,” Mr Diab said after the announcement.

A deal between Hezbollah and its allies paved the way for Mr Diab’s one-sided Cabinet to replace the national unity government of Saad Hariri.

He said his first visit would be to the Gulf region as he sought support for the country and that he would have “intensive” discussions with the central bank.

“God willing, the Lebanese pound will strengthen,” he said. “We will be fast but not hasty in dealing with the economic situation.”

He “saluted” the nationwide uprising and vowed to meet protesters’ demands.

But people gathered on the streets before the announcement with fires set along the main highway to the airport in Beirut and a sit-in in the country’s northern city of Tripoli.

Mr Diab was set to announce a 20-member administration, up from the 18 ministers that had been tipped before Tuesday.

Ghazi Wazni, an economist who has served as a financial adviser to Parliament’s finance and budget committee, was set to become Finance Minister.

Nassif Hitti, a former Lebanese ambassador to the Arab League, was named Foreign Minister in the new government.

Hezbollah would only take two ministries, including health. In the last government it had three posts, the largest number of ministers since it entered government in 2005.

Mr Diab has been trying to form a new administration since being nominated by Hezbollah-allied parties, as rival blocs boycotted the election for a new prime minister on December 19.

But his backers have, until now, been unable to decide on the make-up of his government.

Former prime minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, the Lebanese Forces, the Kataeb party and the Progressive Socialist Party – all members of the now largely defunct March 14 alliance – are not represented.

Mr Diab has promised to form a Cabinet of technocrats, one of the demands of protesters to address decades of poor government, corruption and under-investment.

While most of the names have relevant technical experience for their ministry, they have been agreed on by political parties after discussion and many are linked or have worked with the major parties that back the administration.

The new administration will now face a vote in Parliament and with nearly half of MPs abstaining in the ballot to pick Mr Diab in December, he will may need some support from those not represented in government to secure the endorsement.

The country faces its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. It has triggered mass rallies since October, which prompted Mr Hariri to resign as prime minister. (Source: The National)