Lebanon foreign minister to retain post in new cabinet


BEIRUT: Lebanon’s finance and foreign ministers will retain their posts, a senior official said on Wednesday, as rival parties near a breakthrough in talks on forming a new coalition government.
Ali Hassan Khalil, a top aide to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, will remain finance minister, the official told Reuters. A second senior political source, who confirmed Foreign Minister German Bassil would keep his job, said Elias Bou Saab would become defence minister.
Lebanon is on track to form a new cabinet in days, politicians said, after months of wrangling that has hurt the outlook for its struggling economy.
More than seven months since a parliamentary election, rival parties have yet to agree a deal on the government as officials warn of economic crisis.
Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri’s efforts have faced conflicting demands for cabinet seats, which Lebanon’s power-sharing system parcels out based on sectarian group.
Bassil, President Michel Aoun’s son-in-law, heads the Free Patriotic Movement, of which Bou Saab is also a member. The defence ministry in the outgoing cabinet was with the Christian Maronite FPM that Aoun founded.
“We are on the brink of forming the government,” Berri, whose Shi’ite Amal party is allied to Iran-backed Hezbollah, was cited as saying on Wednesday.
The stagnant economy will be a top priority for the next government. Heavily indebted, Lebanon needs an administration that can set about long-stalled reforms to put public debt on a sustainable footing.
Lebanon is the world’s third-most indebted nation with a debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 150 percent.


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