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Friday April 12, 2024

US warns Lebanon

January 15, 2019

BEIRUT: A top US envoy on Monday warned that Lebanon’s inability to form a government was endangering the tiny multi-confessional country and its ailing economy.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri has struggled for eight months to get politicians from all sides to agree on a cabinet, a key requisite to unlocking billions of dollars in aid. "The international community is closely watching the status of Lebanon’s government," said Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale on a visit to Beirut.

"Crucial economic reforms languish while obstructionism drags down the economy, endangering the country," he said, after meeting Hariri in the Lebanese capital. Economic growth has plummeted in Lebanon in the wake of several political crises, compounded by the outbreak of civil war almost eight years ago in neighbouring Syria.

The international community pledged up to $11.5 billion in aid and loans to Lebanon at a conference in Paris in April. But the promised funding is mostly earmarked for infrastructure projects, which cannot be actioned without a new cabinet.

"We encourage the caretaker government to move forward where it can, especially on the economy, to avoid further damage and maintain international confidence," he said. Last month, France warned Lebanon it could lose the international community’s goodwill and the much-needed investments if it took any longer to form a government.