In his comeback as Lebanon's PM, Hariri vows to halt collapse

ANWAR AMRO / AFP

Lebanese veteran politician Saad al-Hariri was named prime minister for a fourth time on Thursday and pledged to form a new government to tackle the country's worst crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.

After his nomination, Hariri said he would quickly form a cabinet of specialists to bring in economic and financial reforms set out in a French plan to get foreign aid.

But he faces major challenges to navigate Lebanon's sectarian politics to agree a cabinet, which must then fix a mounting list of woes: a banking crisis, currency crash, rising poverty and state debts.

A new government will also have to contend with a COVID-19 surge and the fallout of the August explosion at Beirut port that killed nearly 200 people and caused billions of dollars of damage.

The blast prompted the outgoing government, which succeeded Hariri's last administration, to resign.

At 50, Hariri has already served three terms as premier. He quit almost exactly a year ago as the crisis erupted and protests gripped the country, furious at the ruling elite for decades of state graft and waste.

Hariri, the sole candidate in Thursday's talks, was backed by a majority of parliamentarians.

"I tell the Lebanese who are suffering from hardships to the point of despair that I am determined to work to stop the collapse that is threatening our economy, our society and security," he told reporters.

Senior UN official Jan Kubis warned Lebanon's "traditional political forces" that the country could not survive without an effective government to ward off chaos. "Do not count on miracles, foreign elections or external donors – the rescue must start in Lebanon, by Lebanon," he tweeted.

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