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Lebanon FM resigns in protest at mishandling of crisis

Lebanon’s foreign minister announced his resignation Monday in protest at the government’s mishandling of the worst economic crisis in decades that has forced Beirut to ask for IMF support.

“I have decided to resign today as foreign minister,” Nassif Hitti said in a statement seen by AFP, charging that the government had shown no will to initiate reforms demanded by international donors.

“I participated in the government under the logic of serving one boss, which is Lebanon,” Hitti said. “But I found that in my country there are many bosses and contradictory interests.

“If they don’t unite in the interest of the Lebanese people … then the ship, God forbid, will sink with everyone on board.”

Lebanon is mired in its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, with runaway inflation, galloping prices and bank capital controls fuelling poverty, dispair and angry street protests.

Prime Minister Hasan Diab’s government, formed in January and billed as a group of technocrats, has struggled to secure international support.

Hitti’s resignation comes more than a week after France’s top diplomat Jean-Yves Le Drian during a visit scolded Lebanon’s leadership for failing to take the necessary measures to save the country from collapse.

The outgoing Lebanese foreign minister too called on government officials to “reconsider many of their policies and practises so that the nation and its citizens are given priority over all other considerations”.

Lebanon is grappling with a steep decline in the value of the Lebanese pound, with nearly half of the population now living below the poverty line.

The free-falling economy has sparked mass protests since October against a political class widely accused of being incompetent, corrupt and beholden to sectarian interests rather than a national vision.

The government, which defaulted on its sovereign debt for the first time in March, has pledged an ambitious raft of reforms and two months ago entered into talks with the International Monetary Fund.

But the negotiations have stalled, with two top members of the government’s own team resigning, allegedly in frustration at the administration’s lack of commitment to reform.

Lebanon’s government says it needs more than $20 billion in external funding, which includes $11 billion pledged by donors at a Paris conference in 2018 that was never delivered over lack of reforms.

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