Lebanese political stalemate leaves France for aid meeting

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PARIS (Reuters) – President Emmanuel Macron will attempt to revive a French initiative on Lebanon when he hosts a conference on international aid on Wednesday evening, but with the country’s political class feuds, hopes of a breakthrough appear slim .

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron visits the devastated site of the explosion at the port of Beirut, Lebanon, August 6, 2020. Thibault Camus / Pool via REUTERS / File Photo

Four months after a massive explosion that killed more than 200 people and destroyed parts of the capital, Lebanon is no closer to forming a credible government to overhaul the bankrupt state despite French efforts to convince politicians to ” introduce partial reforms to deal with the emergency.

France, the United States and other donors who have repeatedly come to Lebanon’s aid since the 1975-90 civil war are losing patience with its politicians, many of whom were familiar faces in charge during the descent. of the country in the economic crisis.

“To borrow or lend money you need trust and the trust is not there,” a French presidential official told reporters at a briefing. “We will stay that way as long as there is no credible government in place.”

Co-organized with the United Nations, several heads of state and government will attend the video conference.

Macron, a natural ally given that Lebanon is a former French colony, has invested a lot of political capital in an attempt to break the deadlock, vowing not to abandon the Lebanese.

He is due to visit French troops operating as part of a UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon around December 20, diplomats said.

Having seen the deadlines to form a government pass and political negotiations stalled, Macron chose to hold an aid conference to take stock of the situation.

However, officials made it clear that Lebanon would not be bailed out without structural reforms, a full central bank audit, and that any immediate aid would only serve to help recovery and be distributed directly to the people.

“Lebanon will not escape this type of audit if it wants serious negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. It is essential otherwise it is bankruptcy, ”said the official.

A similar conference in August raised nearly 253 million euros ($ 298 million) in pledges. The official said Wednesday’s conference is expected to raise some more.

“When there is no Plan B, France always holds a conference,” said a Western diplomat, adding that the situation in Lebanon was unlikely to change until a new US administration was firmly in place. square.

Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Angus MacSwan

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