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Macron warns Lebanon risks new civil war if not helped

Paris impatient over lack of progress in forming new government to undertake reform following deadly Beirut blast

French President Emmanuel Macron (C), flanked on his right by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, visits the devastated site of the explosion at the Beirut port on August 6, 2020. (Thibault Camus/Pool/AFP)
French President Emmanuel Macron (C), flanked on his right by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, visits the devastated site of the explosion at the Beirut port on August 6, 2020. (Thibault Camus/Pool/AFP)

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday warned that Lebanon risks a return to civil war if it is left alone to deal with the crisis that followed the deadly Beirut port explosion this month.

Macron was speaking as he prepared to head to Lebanon on Monday in a new bid to press its leaders to undertake radical reform in the wake of the explosion this month that left 181 dead.

“If we let Lebanon go in the region and if we somehow leave it in the hands of the depravity of regional powers, it will be civil war” as well as “the defeat of what is the very identity of Lebanon,” he said.

Paris is impatient over the lack of progress in forming a new government to undertake reform in the aftermath of the blast, which was blamed on a store of ammonium nitrate left for years in a warehouse.

Many Lebanese have blamed the disaster on a ruling class they charge as being mired in nepotism, corruption and neglect since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Cars pass near the scene of Aug. 4 explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Macron spoke of the “constraints of a confessional system” in a country populated by Christians, Sunni Muslims and Shiites.

But he said that added to this was “what can be mildly described as vested interests” and this had led to “a situation where there is hardly any [political] renewal and where there is there is almost an impossibility of carrying out reforms.”

He insisted that France would follow a policy of being “demanding without interfering” and awaited reforms like passing an anti-corruption law and reforming public contracts, the energy sector and the banking system.

“If we do not do this, the Lebanese economy will collapse” and “the only victim will be the Lebanese people… who cannot go into exile,” he warned.

He extolled Lebanon’s multi-confessional make-up saying it “is perhaps one of the last existing forms” in the Middle East of the “peaceful possible coexistence of religions” and a pluralist system based on “education and culture.”

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