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Macron piles pressure on Lebanon's leaders

September 27, 2020

France's president has delivered a scathing rebuke of Lebanon's leaders over their failure to form a government. Emmanuel Macron urged officials to "seize this last chance," to lift the country out of crisis.

Emmanuel Macron
Image: Lewis Joly/AP Photo/picture-alliance

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday accused Lebanon's leaders of a "collective betrayal" after talks to assemble a cabinet collapsed.

Political parties had been seeking to form a reformist government in the wake of a deadly explosion at Beirut's port last month. Lebanon was already in the throes of its worst economic crisis in decades, but the blast sparked fresh public anger over corruption and mismanagement, prompting the previous government to resign.

Under a French plan, Lebanon's sectarian leaders had committed to form a cabinet of independent ministers by mid-September. But prime minister-designate Mustapha Adib stepped down on Saturday after progress stalled. 

"I am ashamed of Lebanon's political leaders," Macron told a news conference in Paris.

"The leaders did not want, clearly and resolutely, to respect the commitments made to France and the international community," the president said. "They decided to betray this commitment."

Read moreLebanon swings between humor and tragedy as economy crumbles

'Collective betrayal'

According to France's roadmap, the new government would implement reforms and take steps to tackle corruption in order to unlock billions in international aid to help the battered economy.

Macron said the leaders of Lebanon — where power is traditionally shared between Shiites, Sunnis and Christians — had failed to stick to commitments because they had prioritized their own interests at the expense of the rest of the country.

"All of them bet on the worst case scenario for the sake of saving themselves, the interests of their family or their clan," Macron said.

"I therefore have decided to take note of this collective betrayal and the refusal of Lebanese officials to engage in good faith."

Macron warns Hezbollah

Macron singled out Lebanon's two main Shiite groups, Amal and Hezbollah, who stalled talks by demanding several ministerial portfolios. Macron also issued a warning to Hezbollah, saying the Iran-backed movement should "not think it is more powerful than it is."

"It must show that it respects all the Lebanese. And in recent days days, it has clearly shown the opposite," said Macron.

"Is it really a political party or does it proceed just in a logic dictated by Iran, and its terrorist forces?"

Read moreToxic gas released after Beirut explosion, residents ask how bad is it?

Macron said the political elite had four to six weeks to make progress on the French roadmap for reforms.

"It is now up to Lebanese officials to seize this last chance themselves," he said.

Under the Lebanese constitution, the president must now hold further talks to nominate another prime minister tasked with forming a government.

Conflict Zone special - Lebanon: From riches to ruin

nm/dj (Reuters, AFP)