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Lebanon PM says no cabinet for blast anniversary

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A handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra shows Lebanon’s two-time premier Najib Mikati holds a press conference following his meeting with the president at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of the capital Beirut on July 26, 2021. – Najib Mikati, a billionaire businessman and Lebanon’s latest premier-designate, is a political veteran viewed by some as emblematic of the crony politics that steered the country towards collapse. The parliamentarian and two-time premier who was again appointed to form a new cabinet on Monday after months of stalled negotiations, returns to the post amid a financial crisis branded by the World Bank as one of the world’s worst since the mid-19th century. (Photo by – / DALATI AND NOHRA / AFP) / 

Lebanon’s newly designated prime minister Najib Mikati said Monday that a cabinet lineup would not be announced by mid-week to coincide with the anniversary of the deadly Beirut port blast.

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“Frankly, with regard to the government, I was hoping the pace would be faster,” he said after meeting President Michel Aoun, whom he said he would now see again on Thursday.

The government of Hassan Diab, who is still caretaker prime minister, resigned en masse days after the August 4 explosion that killed more than 200 people last year.

Mikati, who has already been prime minister twice in the past and is also the country’s richest man, was designated on July 26 to form a government after Saad Hariri threw in the towel.

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He said he had hoped to clinch a deal before the anniversary of the explosion, but media reports said Lebanon’s political parties are still bickering over portfolios in much the same way that has blocked a new government over the past year.

The institutional vacuum is holding up a potential financial rescue plan for Lebanon, which defaulted on its debt last year and has since sunk into what the World Bank has described as one of the world’s worst crises since the mid-19th century.

The designation last month of 65-year-old Mikati, seen by many as a symbol of Lebanon’s corrupt oligarchy, was met with scepticism both at home and abroad.

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