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Lebanon Hezbollah chief will support new cabinet if announced Monday

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Thursday he would support a new Lebanese cabinet if one is announced on Monday, but said that a government formed solely of specialists would not last.

FILE PHOTO: A man rides a motorbike past a picture of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, near Sidon, Lebanon July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho

President Michel Aoun is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri next week.

The two politicians have been wrangling for months as the country sinks deeper into financial crisis.

Aoun is an ally of Iran-backed Hezbollah, listed as a terrorist group by the United States.

“If the prime minister-designate agrees with the president on Monday a government of specialists we will agree,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech.

“I am now saying to everyone a government of both technocrats and politicians which will not allow anyone to run away from responsibility is better,” he said.

Lebanon’s economic meltdown is posing the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Politicians have since late 2019 failed to agree a rescue plan to unlock foreign cash which Lebanon desperately needs.

Hariri met with Aoun earlier on Thursday after a heated political exchange on Wednesday, later saying a new cabinet that would re-engage the IMF was the only solution to Lebanon’s woes.

Nasrallah said a government that sought to implement reforms required by the International Monetary Fund would find difficulty with issues such as subsidy removal.

“If the IMF comes and says we should lift subsidies, will the Lebanese be able to withstand that?” Nasrallah said.

Lebanon’s talks with the IMF stalled last year over a row among government officials, bankers and political parties over vast financial losses.

The financial crisis has seen the value of the Lebanese pound sink by 90%, plunging many into poverty and endangering imports as dollars grow scarce.

The currency crashed so fast in recent weeks, losing a third of its value, it has sent protesters into the streets and forced shops and groceries to close.

Nasrallah blamed central bank chief Riad Salameh for the currency tumble.

“You can work to prevent the deterioration but you aren’t,” he said addressing Salameh.

Nasrallah also said outside and internal entities were trying to push Lebanon into a civil war scenario, without giving more details.

“I have information that there are outside forces and some internal ones that are pushing towards civil war...they are looking for the fuel to add to the oil,” Nasrallah said. speech.

Reporting By Maha El Dahan and Laila Bassam; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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