EU threatens Lebanese politicians with sanctions over political crisis

BEIRUT — The European Union’s foreign policy chief berates Lebanese politicians for delays in forming a new cabinet, warning the union could impose sanctions on those behind the political stalemate in the crisis-hit country.

Josep Borrell makes his comments at the presidential palace near the capital Beirut after meeting today with Lebanese President Michel Aoun. It is the first meeting in a two-day visit to Lebanon.

Borrell’s comments come amid reports in Lebanese media that France and the EU are putting together proposals for possible travel bans and freezes on assets of some politicians.

Borrell says Lebanese politicians should quickly form a new government, implement reforms and reach a deal with the International Monetary Fund to start getting the tiny country out of its paralyzing economic and financial crisis.

Lebanon’s economic crisis — triggered by decades of corruption and mismanagement — began in late 2019 and has intensified in recent months. The World Bank said earlier this month the crisis is likely to rank as one of the worst the world has seen in more than 150 years, adding that the economy contracted 20.3% in 2020 and is expected to shrink 9.5% this year.

A power struggle has emerged between premier-designate Saad Hariri on one side, and Aoun and his son-in-law Gebran Bassil, who heads the largest bloc in parliament, on the other. It has worsened the crisis despite warnings from world leaders and economic experts of the dire economic conditions tiny Lebanon is facing.

Hariri was named to form a new government in October and has not succeeded so far. The government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned days after a massive blast in Beirut on Aug. 4, that killed 211 people and injured more than 6,000.

In this photo released by the Lebanese government, Lebanese President Michel Aoun, right, meets with European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, June. 19, 2021. (Dalati Nohra/Lebanese Official Government via AP)

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