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Lebanon must carry out structural reforms if it is to receive international aid – or even survive, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said, pressuring politicians to appoint a new prime minister.
“The Lebanese authorities have a responsibility to put in place a mission-oriented government to ensure the implementation of essential reforms,” Le Drian said Thursday. “Otherwise, the international community will not be there, we will not be signing a blank check.”
A massive explosion earlier this month in the former French protectorate leveled the country’s main port in Beirut and killed more than 170 people, exacerbating Lebanon’s worst financial crisis in decades. Potential donors fear that aid is either diverted by a corrupt ruling class that has driven the country into economic ruin, or funneled to Iran-backed Hezbollah militants.
The roughly $ 11 billion pledged at a 2018 conference organized by France were never used because Lebanon failed to reassure the international community that the money would be well spent.
There is little sign that the explosion prompted the Lebanese rulers to rectify their corrupt and mismanaged system of government. Prime Minister Hassan Diab has resigned, retaining his post as guard, but President Michel Aoun has yet to convene parliamentary consultations to appoint a replacement. Rescue talks with the International Monetary Fund that were stalled before the explosion have not resumed as reform proposals collapsed amid disagreements.
French President Emmanuel Macron visited Beirut and met with officials shortly after the explosion and said the country needed a new political pact. He urged politicians to form a new cabinet and hold early parliamentary elections.
Le Drian said key reform measures include improving the public procurement process and reforming the banking sector.
“There is an emergency, a humanitarian emergency, a health emergency, but also a political emergency if we want the country to stand, because the risk today is that Lebanon will disappear,” he said.
– With the help of Dana Khraiche