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Lebanese billionaire poised to be named premier-designate

Lebanon’s president is expected to appoint a billionaire businessman and former prime minister as the next premier-designate, after Saad Hariri earlier this month gave up attempts to form a Cabinet amid an unprecedented financial meltdown roiling the country.

Najib Mikati’s appointment is likely to come later in the day, following binding consultations between President Michel Aoun and Lebanese lawmakers.

One of the richest men in Lebanon, Mikati became a favorite for the post after he was endorsed by most of Lebanon’s political parties and also the powerful, Iran-backed Hezbollah group. Mikati was also endorsed by former Sunni prime ministers including Hariri, who abandoned efforts to form a government after failing to agree with Aoun on the Cabinet’s makeup.

The political deadlock, driven by a power struggle between Aoun and Hariri over constitutional rights and powers of the president and prime minister, has worsened a crippling economic and financial crisis.

It is not clear whether Mikati — widely considered an extension of the political class that brought the country to bankruptcy — would be able to break the year-long impasse over the formation of a new government. He faces Christian opposition, including from Aoun’s own political party, now led by his son-in-law Gebran Bassil.

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