Lebanon: On Again/Off Again Prime Minister Saad Hariri Resigns Again

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Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri resigned Thursday after trying and failing to form a government for the struggling nation over the past nine months, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported Friday.

“It is clear that we will not be able to agree with the president,” Hariri told reporters shortly after a 20-minute meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun on July 15.

“I have excused myself from forming the government. May God help the country,” Hariri added.

Hariri’s resignation comes amid a financial crisis in Lebanon “branded by the World Bank as one of the planet’s worst since the mid-19th century,” AFP noted July 16.

“It leaves the country rudderless as Lebanon faces soaring poverty rates, a plummeting currency, renewed street protests and shortages of basic items including medicine and fuel,” according to the French news agency.

French and U.S. ambassadors to Beirut traveled to Riyadh on July 8 to discuss Lebanon’s economic and political crises with Saudi Arabian government officials. The two diplomats expressed to Riyadh that Lebanon is in “desperate need” of a “new, pro-reform government to lead it out of its economic and financial crisis,” according to the Associated Press (AP).

Lebanon has lacked a fully functioning government since August 10, 2020, when the country’s then-Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned in the wake of a deadly explosion at the Port of Beirut six days earlier. The explosion — allegedly due to a shipment of ammonium nitrate negligently stored by the Lebanese government near Beirut’s port — exposed decades of corruption by Lebanese government officials and worsened on-the-ground conditions in Lebanon.

Hariri succeeded Diab as Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate in October 2020 after previously serving as the country’s prime minister on two separate occasions.

“Hariri has served as prime minister twice before [his most recent tenure], the first time from 2009-2011,” the AP recalled Thursday. “His second time came in 2016, in an uneasy partnership with Aoun, an ally of the Shiite … Hezbollah [terrorist] group, which is backed by Iran.”

“At the time, Hariri had backed Aoun for president, ending nearly two years for Lebanon without a head of state, while he stepped in as premier,” the AP noted.

“Also, in 2017, in a reflection of a feud between Saudi Arabia and its regional rival Iran, Hariri suddenly resigned in a televised address from Riyadh and accused Hezbollah of taking Lebanon hostage. He was quickly restored but it signaled the end of his traditional alliance with Riyadh,” according to the news agency. “Then, in October 2019, Hariri resigned, bowing to nationwide protests demanding major reforms.”

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