Lebanon says consultations on new government will start next week

Lebanese national flag flutters in Beirut
Lebanese national flag flutters in Beirut, Lebanon, August 18, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

BEIRUT, July 19 (Reuters) - Lebanon's presidency said parliamentary consultations to choose a new prime minister will begin on July 26, in another attempt to push Lebanon’s fractious political class to form a government to rescue the country from financial meltdown.

Lebanon has been run by a caretaker administration for nearly a year, while its currency has collapsed, jobs have vanished and banks have frozen accounts in what lenders have called one of the most severe financial crises of modern times.

Veteran Sunni Muslim politician Saad al-Hariri abandoned his effort to form a new government last week after nearly 10 months of failing to agree its makeup with President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian allied with the Iran-backed Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah. Hariri and Aoun blamed each other.

A statement by the presidency on Monday said Aoun would be holding formal consultations in the presidential palace to designate a new premier.

Under Lebanon's sectarian system, the prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim.Aoun is required to choose the candidate with the greatest support from lawmakers in parliament, where Iran-backed Hezbollah and its political allies have a majority.

Hariri, Lebanon's leading Sunni Muslim politician, was designated in October to assemble a government after Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned in August, in the wake of the Beirut port explosion that killed nearly 200 people.

Donor countries say Lebanese politicians must form a government to reform the corrupt state before it can receive any bailout funds.

Reporting by Maha al Dahan Editing by Andrew Heavens, William Maclean, Peter Graff

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