Major Lebanese parties said set to tap former finance minister as new PM
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Major Lebanese parties said set to tap former finance minister as new PM

Local media says agreement to nominate Mohammad Safadi came in meeting between resigning leader Saad Hariri and groups Hezbollah and Amal

File: Saad Hariri, right, speaks with then-transportation minister Mohammad Safadi at the French ambassador's residence in Beirut, Lebanon, July 29, 2007. (AP Photo/Marwan Naamani, Pool)
File: Saad Hariri, right, speaks with then-transportation minister Mohammad Safadi at the French ambassador's residence in Beirut, Lebanon, July 29, 2007. (AP Photo/Marwan Naamani, Pool)

Three major Lebanese parties have agreed to nominate former finance minister and businessman Mohammad Safadi as the next prime minister following Saad Hariri’s resignation, local media reported Thursday.

Safadi, 75, from the northern city of Tripoli, is a prominent businessman who has been in politics for 20 years. He served as finance minister in 2011-2014 under prime minister Najib Mikati, and before that served as minister of economy under prime ministers Fouad Siniora and Hariri.

Hariri’s decision last month to step down came amid nationwide protests against corruption and sectarianism that have paralyzed the country.

His resignation marked the first major win for the protest movement, which had called for the resignation of the government. Protesters have been holding demonstrations since October 17 demanding an end to widespread corruption and mismanagement by the political class that has ruled the country for three decades.

Lebanon’s then Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks to an unidentified man during a press conference at his residence in downtown Beirut, November 13, 2018. (Joseph Eid/AFP)

Hariri, currently the interim prime minister, held a meeting Thursday with senior officials from Shiite group Amal and Iran-backed terror organization Hezbollah, where the agreement was reached, the Reuters news agency said, citing unsourced Lebanese media reports.

One report said Christian party Free Patriotic Movement, which is allied with Hezbollah, also agreed to back Safadi as prime minister.

The Shiite Hezbollah, which alongside its military wing also has a powerful political branch, had wanted Hariri to remain prime minister.

Lebanon’s prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim under the country’s power-sharing rules.

Lebanese anti-government protesters shout slogans as they block a main avenue in reaction to the speech of Lebanon’s president Michel Aoun in Beirut on November 11, 2019. (Photo by Patrick BAZ / AFP)

More details about how the future government was shaping up weren’t immediately clear, including whether Hariri’s Future Movement would be included, the report said.

Since Hariri’s resignation there have been disagreements over the new cabinet as Hariri insists it should be made up of technocrats who will concentrate on solving Lebanon’s worst economic and financial crisis in decades, while other politicians, including President Michel Aoun, want it to be a mixture of technocrats and politicians.

Hariri is reportedly willing to return as Lebanon’s prime minister, but only if a new cabinet “includes technocrats and [will] be capable of quickly implementing reforms needed to stave off economic collapse,” according to Reuters.

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