Lebanon's Mikati reports progress, albeit slow, towards forming government

FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister-Designate Najib Mikati, speaks at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon July 28, 2021. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati said on Thursday progress, albeit slow, has been achieved toward forming a Cabinet in Lebanon, noting that donor states would not help the country unless it helped itself.

Lebanon has been without a government since Prime Minister Hassan Diab quit in the aftermath of the catastrophic Aug. 4, 2020, port explosion, with politicians failing to agree even as the country has been paralysed by a major financial crisis.

Mikati, a businessman-politician, has been trying to form the government since he was designated last month in place of Saad al-Hariri, who gave up after nine months of trying, saying he could not agree with President Michel Aoun.

“Today’s meeting was a positive step forward,” Mikati said after meeting Aoun. “Today we made progress ... even if the progress was slow. But we are persevering, and insistent on forming the government,” he said.

While Western donors have provided humanitarian aid to Lebanese - a conference hosted by France on Wednesday raised $370 million - they have demanded Lebanese leaders set about reforms before assistance is directed to the state.

Mikati said there was one message: “If you Lebanese aren’t helping each other, you want us to help you?”

“This is where I started my meeting with his Excellency the President and I told him the government must be formed.”

Mikati said on Monday he had hoped for a quicker pace in the formation of the government and that his efforts would not be open-ended.

Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli/Tom Perry; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Jonathan Oatis