Lebanon's Hariri says he will not head next government

Beirut (AFP) –


Lebanon's outgoing prime minister announced Tuesday that he will not head the next government, a move he said aims to expedite the formation a new cabinet in the protest-hit country.

Saad Hariri had submitted his administration's resignation on October 29, bowing to popular pressure from a nationwide street movement demanding a complete government haul.

Nearly a month later, the country's bitterly divided political leaders have yet to name a new premier or form a new government, frustrating demonstrators who have staged persistent protests since October 17.

In response to the "irresponsible practices" of political leaders, Hariri said he felt compelled to make his intentions known.

"I announce to the Lebanese people that I strongly adhere to the rule of 'not me, but someone else'" he said in a statement.

Hariri did not name an alternative candidate, but said his decision aims to "open doors to a solution".

He hoped President Michel Aoun would "immediately call for binding parliamentary consultations to appoint a new premier".

No date has been set for the necessary consultations to pave the way for a new cabinet line-up, despite mounting international pressure.

Officials from the Free Patriotic Movement, a major Christian party founded by Aoun, have accused Hariri of delaying the process by refusing to accept any other candidate for the premiership, a charge the Sunni Muslim denies.

The United States, Britain, France, the UN, World Bank and credit rating agencies have all urged officials to streamline the process in the wake of a twin political and economic crisis gripping the country.

A former finance minister, Mohamad Safadi, had been considered to replace Hariri but withdrew his bid after more protests.

Aoun's powers include initiating the required parliamentary consultations to appoint a new premier.

The president has said he was open to a government that would include technocrats and representatives of the popular movement, both key demands of the protesters.

However, the demonstrators say they will reject any government that consists of representatives of the established parties.