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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

Lebanon has 10 days to form a government or I’m out, Hariri says

After five months of deadlock, the prime minister-designate has few options

Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is pushing to form a government. EPA
Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is pushing to form a government. EPA

Saad Hariri, the man tasked with forming Lebanon’s next government, has issued a stark ultimatum to political parties after months of delays – agree the next cabinet in the next 10 days or he will resign and refuse to be reappointed.

Mr Hariri had initially pushed to form a cabinet within a month of the May election but, with that deadline long passed, he’s running out of options.

“Government will be formed within the next 10 days because the country is in dire need of it – the economic situation necessitates it and imposes on everyone to make concessions for the country,” Mr Hariri said on Tuesday.

This is not the two-time prime minister’s first experience of trying to lead the myriad of Lebanese parties to an agreement. On his first appointment in 2009, he resigned as prime minister-designate after three months, resetting the process of forming a government. He was reappointed to form the next government by political parties and on his second attempt was able to get an agreement.

But this time, Mr Hariri said, is different. “In case I [recuse myself,] I will not ask anyone to re-designate me [prime minister]. The circumstances that prevailed in my first government [after being reappointed] are different from the current situation,” he said.

The current crisis has revolved around a battle between the two main Christian parties – the Free Patriotic Movement founded by current president Michel Aoun and the Lebanese Forces headed by Samir Geagea. Both beat expectations in May’s election and have been pushing for an increased share in the expected 30-member cabinet.

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However, speaking from his downtown residence on Tuesday, Mr Hariri said that recent talks with the president had given him hope that a compromise could be agreed. But, he added, recent comments made by caretaker Foreign Minister and FPM head Gebran Bassil had "not been positive".

Mr Hariri's latest warning comes days after Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri said negotiations were back to square one. “There was a glimmer of hope, but…I’m pessimistic,” Mr Berri said over the weekend.

He also denied that there had been a French initiative to help him form a government but added that money pledged by the international community in April to help the country’s struggling economy was at risk if no government was formed quickly.

In April, donors gathered in Paris for the CEDRE conference where they pledged $11 billion in loans and grants for a Lebanese infrastructure and reform package drafted by Mr Hariri.

"If we think that the world will wait for us, we are wrong," he warned. "The world is moving and the days are passing, and these funds were put to help the Lebanese economy but if the Lebanese don’t want to help themselves, is the world going to wait for them?"

He added that other loans from the World Bank would expire if a new government was not formed to agree the terms.