- Associated Press - Thursday, December 12, 2019

BEIRUT (AP) - Lebanon’s foreign minister, an ally of the militant Hezbollah group, called Thursday for an emergency government made up of experts to deal with the country’s economic downward spiral.

Gebran Bassil’s statement could potentiall y pave the way for an end to the two-month deadlock that has gripped the country over forming a new Cabinet.

Bassil’s statement comes after weeks of haggling over the nature of the government that is to replace the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri who resigned in late October.

Lebanon has been grappling with nationwide protests and faces one of its worst economic crisis in decades, only deepened by the political stalemate.

Hariri has called for a government of technocrats but remains the most likely candidate to head a new one. The country’s top Sunni religious leader called Hariri the preferred candidate, rejecting another proposed name. Hezbollah also want him to head a mixed government of technocrats and politicians.

Under Lebanon’s sectarian-based political system, the prime minister is chosen from the Sunni community.

Bassil said his party, which has the largest number of seats in parliament, would not take part in a government headed by Hariri.

“Its fate (would be) definitely failure,” Bassil said. “This is not avoiding responsibility. … We will form a constructive opposition.”

His comments could potentially pave the way for a Cabinet to be formed by Hariri. It was not clear how his ally, Hezbollah would react to Bassil’s statement.

Consultations between President Michel Aoun and parliamentary blocs to name a new premier were expected Monday. They were postponed once before over disagreements on naming a new premier.

Hariri, backed by the West but who entered into a national unity government dominated by Hezbollah, called for a government of technocrats after he resigned Oct. 29.

Bassil is one of the most harshly criticized officials in protests that erupted Oct. 17 over proposed new taxes. Those protests spiraled into calls for the entire political elite to step down. The protesters have also said they won’t accept Hariri as returning prime minister.

On Thursday, Hariri told the world’s top financial institutions he was committed to preparing an urgent rescue plan to help alleviate the country’s worsening economic crisis.

Hariri’s comments were made during a phone call with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund’s top executives, according to a statement from his office.

Hariri discussed with the two institutions’ executives the technical assistance they can provide for such a plan and asked for increased financial support from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation to ensure the country’s imports are un interrupted amid a deepening foreign currency crisis.

Hariri’s call came a day after an international group of Lebanon’s allies said the country cannot expect to receive aid unless a new government is formed to institute major reforms.

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