Save Lebanon from failed state status, pleads ex-minister

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Former Lebanese foreign minister Gebran Bassil appealed to world leaders on Wednesday to help save his country from becoming a “failed state” amid a spiraling financial crisis.

FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil is seen after a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon December 12, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo

Lebanon is hoping a new government formed on Tuesday can win the financial support of donors it needs to climb from a deep economic emergency as increasingly violent protests threaten to tip the country into a more serious conflict at a time of wider regional turmoil.

Speaking to Reuters at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Bassil, who leads the largest Christian political bloc in Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system, said the country was a model of co-existence that could “be the real antidote to terrorism”, if only kept stable.

“It’s a country that we need to preserve in order to play that role and expand it, not to make it fail and become in the rank of failed states. This will not help the Lebanese. This will not help any country in the region,” he said.

Analysts have said the influence of Iranian-backed Hezbollah in the newly formed cabinet, which is also supported by Bassil’s party, could hurt Lebanon’s ability to win foreign funds needed to meet debt obligations and stabilize its financial system.

Bassil, the influential son-in-law of President Michel Aoun, has been a top target of protesters who see him as a symbol of a corrupt political order that has driven the country to the brink of collapse through mismanagement and waste of public funds.

His attendance at the global Davos forum sparked online petitions by some Lebanese who say he does not represent them.

Bassil rejected the accusations as a “generalization” of corruption charges against the country’s elite. “I personally am the only politician in Lebanon who revealed his account statements, and no one dared to do the same.”

He said he had asked Switzerland, the United States and others to help uncover potentially illicit transactions of Lebanese public servants and political personalities, part of a broader effort to crack down on corruption.

“Let all the accounts of politicians and public servants now be revealed by the special commission that we have in the central bank,” said Bassil.

Reporting by Alessandra Galloni; Writing by Eric Knecht; Editing by Mark Heinrich