Diplomat Tapped to Be PM Vows Reforms in Crisis-Hit Lebanon

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) -
Lebanese Prime Minister-Designate Mustapha Adib. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Lebanon’s prime minister-designate on Monday called for a new government to be formed “in record time,” pledging to speed up the investigation into the massive Beirut explosion and implement reforms after winning the backing of major parties in the crisis-hit country.

Mustapha Adib, Lebanon’s ambassador to Germany, spoke to reporters shortly after he was appointed by the president to form a new government, after he secured 90 votes among the legislators in the 128-member parliament.

The breakthrough came hours before French President Emmanuel Macron was due to arrive for a two day-visit, during which he is expected to press Lebanese officials to formulate a new political pact to lift the country out of its multiple crises. At least 190 people died and 6,000 were injured in the Aug. 4 blast, which devastated the city’s port and caused widespread damage to residential and commercial areas in the capital.

The government resigned less than a week after the blast, which was caused by the ignition of nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored for six years in a port warehouse.
In his first move after being appointed, Adib visited the historic neighborhood of Gemmayzeh, one of the areas hardest-hit by the explosion, and chatted with residents — something which no other Lebanese politician has done.

Macron and other world leaders, as well as the International Monetary Fund, have refused to give assistance to Lebanon before it enacts major reforms. The swift consensus around Adib, a little-known diplomat, signaled a sense of urgency by Lebanon’s traditional politicians to try and contain the rapidly worsening economic and financial crisis and show movement ahead of Macron’s visit.

Adib, who returned from Germany to Lebanon on Saturday, was the only name to emerge as a favorite for the post of prime minister, who according to Lebanon’s sectarian-based power sharing system has to be a Sunni Muslim. The candidate who gets the most support is asked to form the new Cabinet, but Lebanon’s divided political class has often been bogged down over who holds senior posts and key ministries.

Earlier Sunday, the head of the powerful Hezbollah militant group, Hassan Nasrallah, said his supporters will cooperate and facilitate the formation of a government that would be able to improve economic conditions and undertake major reforms.

The Iran-backed militant group, which has a dominant role in Lebanon’s politics, has come under intense criticism and public scrutiny as the country faces multiple devastating crises. Hezbollah and its allies also named Adib.

Even before the explosion, an unprecedented economic crisis had already sapped the Lebanese currency of more than 80% of its value, driving unemployment, poverty and inflation through the roof.

Coronavirus infections and deaths have also spiked, pushing authorities to reintroduce some restrictions on economic and social activities that have largely been ignored amid the slump. And the recent explosion badly damaged the port of Beirut, a main trade channel for the small country, which depends on imports.