Lebanon’s PM-designate bows out after failing to form cabinet Sep 27, 2020 0 703 12345 AFPBeirutLebanon’s premier-designate stepped down on Saturday, saying he had been unable to form a reform-minded government to lift the country out of its worst economic crisis in decades.Lebanon’s last government resigned in the aftermath of a colossal blast at Beirut’s port on August 4 that killed more than 190 people, wounded thousands and ravaged swathes of the capital.Since his nomination on August 31, Mustapha Adib has been under pressure to form a new cabinet as soon as possible to carry out the necessary reforms to unlock billions of dollars in foreign aid.“I excuse myself from continuing the task of forming the government,” Adib said in a televised speech.“I apologise to the Lebanese people... for my inability to realise its aspirations for a reformist team,” he said.Government formation can drag on for months in multi-confessional Lebanon, where a power-sharing agreement seeks to maintain a fragile balance between all sides.This effectively means that all main political parties must agree on major decisions, including the makeup of any future cabinet even before it is submitted for parliamentary approval. Adib’s efforts to come up with a new line-up have been effectively blocked by the two main parties representing Lebanon’s large Shiite community -- Amal and Hezbollah.The two parties have refused to budge on their demand to keep the finance ministry under their control.Adib, a little-known 48-year-old former ambassador, was named just hours before French President Emmanuel Macron made his second visit to the country since the August 4 blast, pressing for the speedy formation of a reformist government.Macron said he had secured commitments from all of Lebanon’s political parties to help Adib achieve that within a fortnight, but the deadline came and went.The premier-designate said it had become clear he no longer had support from all political forces.“As the efforts to form a government reached their final phase, it became apparent to me that this consensus... was no longer there and that forming one according to the criteria I had determined was bound to fail,” he said.Even before last month’s blast, Lebanon was already mired in its worst economic crunch since the 1975-1990 civil war, as it grappled with the novel coronavirus pandemic.In March, Lebanon for the first time defaulted on its sovereign debt, before launching talks with the International Monetary Fund towards unlocking billions of dollars in aid that then ground to a halt.The Lebanese pound has plummeted in value, inflation has soared, and poverty rates have doubled to more than half the population.Adib has become the third prime minister, or prime minister-designate, to step down in less than a year. Former premier Saad Hariri -- who himself quit last autumn, during massive protests -- was among several former premiers who on Saturday lamented the deadlock that led to Adib’s resignation.“You will bite your fingers in regret... over wasting an exceptional opportunity that will be difficult to repeat to stop the economic collapse and put the country on the path of demanded reform,” Hariri said.UN envoy to Lebanon Jan Kubis reacted on Twitter: “Such a degree of irresponsibility, when the fate of Lebanon and its people is at stake!”“Politicians, have you really scuppered this unique chance created by France?” President Michel Aoun accepted Adib’s resignation and was set to “take the appropriate measures according to the requirements of the constitution”, his office said, adding that the head of state still supported the French initiative.Just Wednesday, as frustrations grew over the delay in forming a new government, France urged the international community to apply strong and unified pressure on Lebanon.After the August 4 blast, it emerged the Lebanese authorities had known about the huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate fertiliser that exploded, but had not moved it.The port blast has rekindled public anger against Lebanon’s entrenched political elite, with protesters accusing politicians across the board of incompetence and corruption. RELATED ARTICLES India’s vaccine capacity will help ‘all humanity’: Modi Sep 27, 2020 0 847 CAR president Touadera announces candidacy for December election Sep 27, 2020 0 349 Taliban nix lasting peace before political agreement: US envoy for Afghan peace Sep 27, 2020 0 369 Somali army frees 40 children kidnapped by Al Shabaab MOGADISHU: The Somali army killed 16 Al Shabaab militants in an offensive in lower Shabelle province on Saturday, officials said, in an attempt to free dozens of children. The children had been kidnapped by the Islamist .. Tunisia reports its highest daily coronavirus caseload TUNIS: Tunisia on Saturday confirmed 1,087 new cases of the coronavirus, the North African country’s highest single-day caseload since March. The latest reported cases have taken Tunisia’s total virus caseload to .. Seven killed in blast in rebel-held Syrian area: Monitor DAMASCUS: A car bomb killed at least seven people on Saturday in an area controlled by Turkish troops and their rebel allies in north-east Syria, a war monitor reported. Ten others were injured in the bombing that took .. Jailed Iran rights lawyer ends hunger strike over health concerns AFP Tehran Jailed Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has stopped a hunger strike she began more than 45 days ago due to health concerns, her husband said on Saturday. Sotoudeh, 57, announced she was going on .. Rouhani condemns US for ‘crimes’ against Iran AFP Tehran Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday said people should blame Washington for the “crimes and pressure” facing the country, as waves of US sanctions impact the struggling economy. “They prevented the .. 1 killed in clashes with police at Egypt protest AFP CAIRO An Egyptian man was killed overnight on Saturday in clashes between protesters and police during a demonstration in a village south of Cairo against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, family and medical sources ..