Lebanon PM presses on with crisis cabinet line-up effort

Beirut (AFP) –


Lebanon's prime minister-designateMustapha Adib said Thursday he was extending efforts to strike a deal on an emergency cabinet line-up despite missing a French deadline.

"I am fully aware that we do not have the luxury of time," he said in a brief statement after meeting President Michel Aoun.

French President Emmanuel Macron had given Lebanon's main political players a two-week deadline to agree on a line-up of experts whose job would be to address multiple crises.

The deadline expired on Wednesday with no result, prompting Macron to voice his disappointment.

"I am counting on everyone's cooperation to form a government whose task will be to implement what was agreed upon with President Macron," said Adib.

The French leader, who travelled to Beirut twice since an August 4 port explosion disfigured the city, had demanded Lebanon's factions set no conditions on the line-up of the crisis government.

France had warned that the combined effects of one of the largest explosions in history and of a critical debt crisis posed an existential threat to the 100-year-old state.

The two main Shiite groups in Lebanon's usual power-sharing arrangement, however, have insisted on retaining the finance ministry, effectively blocking Adib's efforts.

The parliamentary bloc affiliated to the Shiite movement Hezbollah, in a statement, said it "categorically rejected" any effort to impose names or block names for "any cabinet portfolio, especially the finance ministry".

According to political officials, the young premier-designate has been pushing for a tighter cabinet of 14 ministers while the dominant alliance in parliament wants 24.

Lebanese media had raised the possibility he would throw in the towel if the French deadline was not met, but Adib looked set to pursue his efforts.