Lebanese PM Najib Mikati says he will not renew tenure of bank chief Riad Salameh

Three-decade term of embattled central bank governor to expire at end of this month

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati gestures during a news conference at the government palace in Beirut. Reuters
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Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati has said leadership of the nation's central bank will fall to its four deputy governors because Riad Salameh's term will not be renewed.

No successor will be chosen once the tenure of the embattled central bank governor expires at the end of this month, Mr Mikati added.

The most senior deputy Wassim Mansouri will take temporary charge of the bank, the Prime Minister has previously said.

But last week, one of the other deputy governors, Salim Chahine, claimed they were all considering quitting if no successor is named.

Deputy Prime Minister Saade Chami said such an implied threat was “dangerous at this critical juncture,” and that the deputy governors should “assume their responsibility in case this appointment is not possible”.

Mr Chami is leading negotiations with the International Monetary Fund over a $3 billion bailout for Lebanon, embroiled in one of the worst economic crises in modern history.

Asked by Saudi newspaper Asharq Al Awsat about the implied threat, Mr Mikati said Minister of Finance Youssef Khalil would ask the deputy governors to continue running the central bank.

The crisis has been blamed on decades of financial mismanagement and corruption among Lebanon’s elite. As the long-time governor of the central bank, Mr Salameh has been one of those held chiefly responsible.

He is embroiled in numerous domestic and international investigations into alleged corruption and embezzlement of state funds, accusations he denies.

Salameh should be arrested and imprisoned, Bassil tells The National

Salameh should be arrested and imprisoned, Bassil tells The National

Some cabinet ministers, although not Mr Mikati, called for Mr Salameh to resign after France issued an arrest warrant for him earlier this year.

In Lebanon’s confessional system, the role of central bank governor is reserved for a Maronite Christian. Mr Mansouri is a Shiite Muslim and thought to be close to powerful parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri – also a Shiite.

In another high-profile role, the term of Abbas Ibrahim as commander of the General Security intelligence agency expired earlier this year. He was replaced by his deputy Elias Baissari on a temporary basis.

Lebanon is embroiled in an unprecedented post-civil war leadership vacuum. Mr Mikati’s cabinet has caretaker status so is severely stripped of powers.

He had failed to come to an agreement on the formation of his cabinet with former president Michel Aoun before the latter's term expired at the end of October.

The deeply divided parliament has held 12 sessions to elect a new president but the 128 MPs have come nowhere near to finding a successor to Mr Aoun.

Mr Mikati reaffirmed that the first step to finding a solution to Lebanon's various crises is electing a president.

Updated: July 26, 2023, 11:52 AM