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Lebanon's PM-designate, named as part of French initiative to save the country, steps down

Posted September 26, 2020 5:13 a.m. EDT

— Lebanon's PM-designate Mustapha Adib, who was set to take the helm of a rescue government, has stepped down after failing to break a political stalemate over the formation of a new cabinet.

Adib was named as part of a diplomatic initiative by French President Emmanuel Macron to broker a political resolution in the crisis-ridden country and stave off state collapse in the wake of Beirut's August 4 explosion.

That government was set to oversee a series of reforms that would unlock pledged international donations to Lebanon, and pave the way to an aid conference Macron said he would schedule for late October. In an interview with Politico on September 1, he said his initiative marked the political elite's "last chance" to save the political system.

Lebanon financial reserves are quickly drying up as it faces one of the worst financial crises in decades. During a press conference this week, President Michel Aoun said the country would "go to hell" if talks over the government's formation failed. He raised the specter of total bankruptcy and said the main sticking point of the negotiations centered on Iran-backed Hezbollah and its main Shia ally Amal's insistence on naming the next finance minister.

Lebanon's ruling elite have been mired in political deadlock since late October 2019 when a popular uprising demanded the downfall of the country's confessional power-sharing system and toppled the government of former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri.

Over the last 11 months, the country's currency has lost around 80% of its value, poverty has soared to over 50% and unrest on the streets has been rampant. An explosion that ripped through the capital last month and killed nearly 200 people deepened the country's crisis, and has prompted an exodus of young talent.

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