UPDATE 1-Frenchman Macron says he will continue to put pressure on Lebanon

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PARIS, Sept. 27 (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday that he would not back down on an initiative to save Lebanon from collapse, but that he was “ashamed” of the Lebanese leadership and would increase the pressure on them to change course.

Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib resigned on Saturday after failing to align a non-partisan cabinet, dealing a blow to the French plan to rally sectarian leaders to deal with the country’s crisis.

“I am ashamed of Lebanese political leaders,” Macron said at a press conference in Paris. “The leaders did not want, clearly and resolutely, to respect the commitments made to France and the international community. They decided to betray this commitment.

Adib was chosen on August 31 to form a cabinet after Macron’s intervention obtained consensus on his appointment in a country where power is shared between Muslims and Christians.

As part of France’s roadmap, the new government would take action to fight corruption and implement the reforms needed to unleash billions of dollars in international aid to repair an economy crushed by massive debt.

But there was a deadlock on a request from Lebanon’s two main Shiite groups, Amal and the heavily armed Iran-backed Hezbollah, that they appoint several ministers, including finance, who will play an important role in shaping economic bailouts.

Macron criticized both sides for blocking efforts to form a government before mid-September.

“I understood that Hezbollah’s goal was to make no concessions… Failure is theirs,” he said.

Macron said political leaders chose “to hand Lebanon over to foreign powers”, destabilizing the region.

He gave the Lebanese political class four to six weeks to implement his roadmap and said he would commit to holding a donors’ conference for Lebanon in October. He ruled out immediate sanctions. (Reporting by John Irish and Matthias Blamont; written by Raya Jalabi, edited by Timothy Heritage)

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