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Lebanese president warns of 'hell' if new government is not formed

President Michel Aoun proposed annulling sectarian quotas in main ministries in bid to form cabinet
Lebanese President Michel Aoun gave a televised address a week after a deadline with France to name a cabinet passed.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun gives televised address a week after a deadline to name a cabinet passed (AFP)

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Monday that the country was going "to hell" if a new government was not formed soon, and criticised his political allies for jockeying for their sect to retain control of key ministries.

Lebanon missed France's 15-day deadline to form a crisis cabinet last Wednesday and the government was stuck in deadlock at the weekend over who controls the finance ministry.

"As the positions have grown harder, there appears [to be] no solution on the horizon soon," Aoun said in a televised address where he also proposed scrapping sectarian quotas in the main cabinet ministries.

Asked by a reporter where the country was headed if the deadlock could not be broken, Aoun replied: "To hell, of course. Why else would I be standing here speaking if this wasn't the case?"

France had been pushing Lebanon to form a new cabinet by 15 September, but the deadline was missed amid a row over appointments, notably the finance minister, a post that had been controlled by the Shia for years.

Top Lebanese posts, including the job of president, prime minister, and parliament speaker are distributed according to sect in line with the country's sectarian power-sharing agreement.

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While that agreement stipulates the even distribution of parliament and cabinet seats between Muslims and Christians, it does not distribute seats according to sect.

Parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who is also the chair of the Hezbollah-allied Amal Movement, has insisted on keeping hold of the finance ministry, which has been held by a Shia close to Berri and Hezbollah for the past 10 years.

In rare, clear criticism directed at his allies, Aoun said: "We have offered reasonable solutions for forming a government but they were not accepted by the two groups."

Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib, a Sunni Muslim, urged political forces in the crises-hit country to cooperate to facilitate the creation of a new cabinet.

"Lebanon doesn't have the luxury of wasting time amid the unprecedented crises that it is going through," Adib said.

He said that all parties should work together to form a government of technocrats "capable of halting the collapse and starting work to get the country out of the crises".

The delay to form a new government comes amid continued public anger over the 4 August explosion at Beirut port which killed at least 191 people and wounded thousands.

Many Lebanese blame the blast on Lebanon's political elites, accusing them of corruption and mismanagement, as the country is on the verge of economic collapse.

The French proposals set out milestones for a new government, ranging from resuming stalled talks with the International Monetary Fund - a first step to helping deal with a mountain of debt and fix Lebanon's broken banking sector - to fixing the broken electricity system.