Lebanon PM says no Cabinet for Beirut explosion anniversary

Political parties are still bickering over portfolios in much the same way that has blocked a new government over the past year

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Lebanon's new prime minister-designate, Najib Mikati, said on Monday that a Cabinet line-up would not be announced by midweek to coincide with the anniversary of the deadly Beirut port blast.

“Frankly, with regard to the government, I was hoping the pace would be faster,” he said after meeting President Michel Aoun, whom he said he would now need to see again on Thursday.

The government of Hassan Diab, who is still caretaker prime minister, resigned en masse days after last year's August 4 explosion killed more than 200 people.

Mr Mikati, who has already been prime minister twice in the past and is also the country's richest man, was designated on July 26 to form a government after Saad Hariri threw in the towel.

He said he had hoped to clinch a deal before the anniversary of the explosion, but media reports said Lebanon's political parties are still bickering over portfolios in much the same way that has blocked the formation of a new government over the past year.

The institutional vacuum is holding up a potential financial rescue plan for Lebanon, which defaulted on its debt last year and has since sunk into what the World Bank described as one of the world's worst crises since the mid-19th century.

A conference this week is looking to collect monetary aid to meet the most urgent needs of the battered country's population, France said on Monday.

Co-hosted by President Emmanuel Macron and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the conference coincides with the blast anniversary on Wednesday.

“The situation has worsened,” Mr Macron's office said.

Citing a UN estimate, his office said Lebanon's new needs amounted to $357 million to help the country confront issues including food security, education, health and water supply.

The designation last month of 65-year-old Mr Mikati, seen by many as a symbol of Lebanon's corrupt oligarchy, was met with scepticism both at home and abroad.

Updated: August 3rd 2021, 6:00 AM