BEIRUT (Dispatches) – Lebanon’s prime minister designate Mustapha Adib started talks on forming a crisis government Wednesday.
The premier designate started meeting parliamentary bloc leaders, as Pope Francis warned Lebanon faced "extreme danger that threatens the very existence of the country”.
"Lebanon cannot be abandoned to its solitude,” the pope said.
The last government resigned in the face of public anger over the August 4 explosion that killed nearly 200, wounded thousands and laid waste to entire districts of the capital.
Government formation is usually a drawn-out process in multi-confessional Lebanon where a complex political system seeks to share power between different religious groups.
But the country’s deadliest peacetime disaster has created intense pressure for swift reforms to lift the country out of its worst economic crisis in decades.
Lebanese lawmakers rushed to approve the nomination of the 48-year-old diplomat on Monday just hours before the French president landed.
Under Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the country’s main religious communities usually agree on a new government lineup before its announcement.
The hasty cabinet formation also comes under French pressure to complete the task within two weeks to move forward with desperately needed reforms.
The consultations came after a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron during which he said political leaders had agreed a road map for reform after last month’s devastating blast in the port of Beirut.
Macron warned Lebanon, already reeling from crisis, that it risks facing punitive measures if economic reforms are not implemented.
Visiting the country that is collapsing under the weight of an economic crisis for the second time in less than a month, Macron marked Lebanon’s centenary by traveling to a forest outside Beirut to plant a cedar tree, the emblem of a nation facing the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-1990 civil war.
"It’s the last chance for this system,” Macron told POLITICO in an interview while traveling to Beirut on Monday.