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Lebanon’s Hariri says government formation may take more time

By Reuters - Aug 15,2018 - Last updated at Aug 15,2018

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al Hariri at the governmental palace in Beirut on October 24, 2017 (Reuters photo)

BEIRUT — It may take Lebanese parties more time to form a coalition government, prime minister designate, Saad Al Hariri, said on Tuesday more than three months after the general election. 

“Perhaps we need more time to arrive at a final formula,” he said to reporters before a meeting of members of parliament from his party in Beirut. 

Lebanese politicians have repeatedly warned that the country — which has one of the world’s highest rates of public debt — urgently needs to put a government in place, but they have jostled over Cabinet positions. 

“There is no doubt that some sides still stick to their terms, but, as we see, all of them retreat and concede a little,” he said, adding that the new government needed to include all parties. 

The May 6 elections delivered a majority for the Shiite Hizbollah and its parliamentary allies, a reversal of the previous vote in 2009, when groups with Western and Saudi support won most seats.

The result has further complicated Lebanon’s tangled sectarian politics, as Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Christians and Druze compete among themselves for ministries. 

The delay in forming the government has prompted recriminations between rival parties. 

Last week, Hizbollah members of parliament warned that the delay risked Lebanon “sliding towards tensions”.

“We are a state that has problems, and we must form a national unity government in which [there is] cooperation between all the parties. Otherwise we will create a problem in the Cabinet,” Hariri said. 

The International Monetary Fund has warned that Lebanon needs “an immediate and substantial fiscal adjustment” to make its public debt — which measures at about 150 per cent of gross domestic product — sustainable. 

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