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Lebanon caretaker leader pleads for foreign help

July 6, 2021

Lebanon's caretaker prime minister says the country is on the verge of a "major catastrophe." Foreign leaders have asked for stable government and reforms.

Hassan Diab (C) meets with foreign diplomatic representatives regarding the economic crisis in Beirut,
Foreign powers are withholding aid until a stable government passes reformsImage: Lebanese Gov't Press Office/Anadolu Agency/picture alliance

Lebanon′s caretaker prime minister, Hassan Diab, called for international help to avoid a "social explosion" caused by one of the worst depressions since the 19th century in comments on Tuesday.

Diab said: "Lebanon is crossing a very dark tunnel" that is leading the country toward a "major catastrophe" at all levels of society.

Diab said political rivalry and the lack of a democratically elected government since October were only increasing financial instability.

What did Hassan Diab say?

Diab spoke about his grave concerns over Lebanon′s future after a meeting with foreign and Arab ambassadors at the governmental palace.

"The severe crises experienced by the Lebanese at various levels of life, living, social, health and services are pushing the situation in Lebanon towards a major catastrophe," he revealed.

Diab said his country was "just days away from a social explosion,"  and pleaded with the international community to "help save Lebanese from death and prevent Lebanon's demise."

What led to this situation?

Diab stepped down as prime minister after an explosion at Beirut port killed over 200 people on August 4. However, he stayed on as caretaker prime minister pending a new government.

The Middle Eastern country has been without a government since October, making significant change difficult.

One of the many challenges a new government would have to confront is the free fall of the Lebanese, which has nosedived 90% since 2019 against the dollar.

The World Bank has called the resulting financial crisis one of the world′s worst since the 1800s.

The devaluation of the Lebanese pound has caused long queues for petrol and shortages in medicines.

An intense political rivalry has made finding a new cabinet impossible, although this could be the key to Western help.

Why is the help not coming?

Western powers, with former colonial authority France at their head, have pledged support only on the condition of a new government being formed and reforms being passed.

But Diab has explained that this would be very difficult in the current deepening crisis.

"Linking aid to Lebanon with government formation has started to threaten the lives of Lebanese," Diab said. "Save Lebanon before it's too late."

Neighboring Israel has committed to sending humanitarian help through the United Nations Interim Forces in southern Lebanon. However, both countries are currently at war with border tensions flaring constantly.

"This government does not have the right to resume negotiations with the IMF to implement the recovery plan set by the cabinet, for this entails obligations on the next government that it may not endorse," Diab added.

The EU believes Lebanon's problems are of its own doing and is pushing for sanctions on political leaders.

jc/aw (Reuters, dpa, AFP)