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Cabinet formation talks in Lebanon collapse amid crisis

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Hariri, who was tasked by Aoun to form a cabinet in October after being appointed by a majority of lawmakers, is seeking to form a cabinet of technocrats, or non-partisan specialists, while Aoun has demanded an enlarged cabinet of at least 20 minister.

Hariri said Aoun sent him a proposed list of cabinet ministers, with a veto over his alliance, asking him to simply sign the names. He said he rejected that request as unconstitutional.

The task of the appointed prime minister is not to complete the list by anyone and it is not the duty of the president to form a government, Hariri said.

Aouns’s office strongly denied the allegation that the president sent Hariri a list of names, suggesting that Hariri did not want to form a government for reasons that had nothing to do with its composition.

Aoun was elected to a six-year term by parliament in 2016 after Lebanon had been nearly two years without a president. He is an ally of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group. Hariri, who has worked closely with Hezbollah in the past, is embroiled in a power struggle with the Aouns political party and is under pressure to oust Hezbollah from a future cabinet.

The economic and financial crisis in Lebanon is the biggest threat to its stability since the 15-year-old civil war that ended in 1990.

The country’s local currency has been in a free fall since the end of 2019, losing over 90% of its value. The government made a default on its external debt last year and nearly half the population has been pushed into poverty and unemployment.

Commodity prices have risen and inflation has risen. Banks have imposed informal controls on people’s savings, and foreign reserves of central banks have shrunk to an import-dependent country.

The outgoing government resigned last August after a massive explosion in the port of Beirut that killed 211 people, injured more than 6,000 and damaged entire neighborhoods in the capital.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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