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Lebanon on Brink of Forming New Cabinet

Lebanon on Brink of Forming New Cabinet

Thursday, 16 January, 2020 - 18:30
Hassan Diab arrives to talk to the media after being named Lebanon's new prime minister, at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon December 19, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
Asharq Al-Awsat

Lebanon is on the brink of forming a new government, caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil announced on Thursday.

Lebanon has been without a government since Saad Hariri resigned as prime minister on Oct. 29 in the face of sweeping protests against the country's elite, complicating efforts to mount an economic recovery.

"Today I think that we have progressed to a very big extent and we can say that we are on the doorstep of forming a new government," said Khalil.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting between Prime Minister Hassan Diab and Speaker Nabih Berri, Khalil said the new cabinet would be comprised of 18 specialist ministers.

Senior political sources told Reuters that economist Ghazi Wazni was set to be named finance minister in the new cabinet. Wazni has served as an adviser to parliament's finance and budget committee.

He will take on the role amid a crisis that has shattered confidence in the country's banks and growing concerns over its ability to repay one of the world's highest debt burdens, with $2.5 billion in Eurobonds due in 2020.

Khalil said decisions about the Eurobond maturities should come as part of a "comprehensive plan" put forward by the new government.

Lebanon's debt problems jumped back into focus this week after reports emerged of a bid by Central Bank Governor Riad Salame to try and delay some of this year's bond repayments, a move that could constitute a selective default.

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