World Saad Hariri named new Lebanon PM, promises reform cabinet
Analysis: The politics behind the Lebanon-Israel border talks
Lebanon and Israel are set to sit down for US-mediated talks on a maritime border dispute.The talks are the first between Beirut and Tel Aviv in 30 years on a civilian matter. They are set to begin on Wednesday in the southernmost Lebanese border town of Naqoura under United Nations auspices, with US mediation.
Three-time Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri was renamed to the post Thursday to create a reform-orientated cabinet that can lift the country out of its worst economic crisis in decades.
Hariri, 50, made his comeback to take on the difficult task almost a year after stepping down under pressure from an unprecedented protest movement demanding a complete overhaul of Lebanon's political system.
Lebanon, Israel to start landmark maritime border talks
Lebanon and Israel, still technically at war, begin unprecedented talks sponsored by the UN and Washington on Wednesday to settle a maritime border dispute and clear the way for hydrocarbon exploration. Following years of US shuttle diplomacy, Lebanon and Israel, this month said they had agreed to begin UN-brokered negotiations, in what Washington hailed a "historic" agreement. The talks, which will be held at the headquarters of UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL in the Lebanese border town of Naqura, come weeks after Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates became the first Arab nations to establish relations with Israel since Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
The country is under huge international pressure to form a crisis cabinet of independents to address a plummeting economy made worse by the coronavirus pandemic and the devastating blast at the Beirut port on August 4.
Immediately after President Michel Aoun named him, the returning premier vowed to form a cabinet of experts, in line with conditions set by French President Emmanuel Macron to help rescue the corruption-ridden country from crisis.
Hariri said he would "form a cabinet of non politically aligned experts with the mission of economic, financial and administrative reforms contained in the French initiative roadmap".
Lebanon, Israel set for talks over maritime border
Hezbollah, Amal criticise delegation that will represent Lebanon at the talks that are starting from Wednesday.The talks will be held at the headquarters of UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL in the Lebanese border town of Naqoura from Wednesday. It is unclear how long they will go on for.
"I will work on forming a government quickly because time is running out," he said, calling it the country's "only and last chance".
Cabinet formation is often a drawn-out process in Lebanon, where a complex governing system seeks to maintain a precarious balance between its various political and religious communities.
Hariri himself took eight months to hammer out his last cabinet after 2018 parliamentary elections.
His nomination was backed by a majority of 65 lawmakers, while 53 abstained from naming anyone during consultations with the president.
The parliamentary bloc of the powerful Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah did not give the president a name of a preferred candidate, its representative said, but its main ally the Amal Movement supports Hariri's nomination.
- 'Political interference' -
The consultations come Beirut's massive port blast killed more than 200 people and devastated swathes of the capital in the country's worst peacetime disaster.
Lebanon protesters' euphoria gives way to despair
The country's problems have worsened since huge crowds took to the streets a year ago.Music blasted round the square, glow-sticks lit up the night sky, and a sea of demonstrators chanted "Thawra, thawra, thawra", which means "revolution" in Arabic.
The authorities said the explosion occurred after a fire broke out in a warehouse storing hundreds of tonnes of ammonium nitrate.
A probe into the cause of one of the largest non-nuclear blasts ever has resulted in the arrest of 25 people, including top port and customs officials.
But the group Human Rights Watch said Thursday the probe had failed to yield any credible results more than two months later, and reiterated its calls for "independent, international investigation".
"Political interference coupled with long-standing failings of the judicial system have made a credible and impartial domestic investigation seemingly impossible," the rights group said.
Lebanon has rejected an international investigation into the blast, but its probe is being aided by foreign experts, including from the FBI and France.
Outrage over the disaster blamed on official ineptitude led to the resignation of the government of prime minister Hassan Diab, who was replaced by a relatively unknown diplomat, Mustapha Adib.
But Adib faced resistance from some of the main parties and threw in the towel less than a month later, leaving Lebanon rudderless to face soaring poverty and the aftermath of the disaster.
Aoun warned Wednesday that Lebanon's third prime minister in a year would have to spearhead reforms and battle corruption.
He also accused unnamed officials of blocking reforms long demanded by international donors, including power-sector reform and a forensic audit of the central bank.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian on Wednesday warned: "The more we wait, the more the boat sinks."
"If Lebanon does not carry out the reforms it needs, it's the country itself that risks breaking up," he said.
Lebanese families are taking the treacherous journey across the sea to Cyprus. Little Mohammed didn't make it .
Zeinab, her husband Nazir and their four children were hoping to start a new life when they boarded a boat from Lebanon to Cyprus. Instead, they got lost, ran out of fuel and lost their baby son as they drifted at sea."I knew then our life and our kids are in danger, but I didn't expect my child to die," Zeinab told the ABC.