Lebanon set to get new national unity government in days - politicians
By Tom Perry and Laila Bassam BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon is on track to form a new national unity government in the next few days, politicians said on Tuesday, raising hopes for an end to more than seven months of wrangling that has darkened the outlook for its struggling economy. Efforts to form the new government, led by Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri, have been obstructed by conflicting demands for cabinet seats that must be parcelled out in line with a finely balanced, sectarian political system. Heavily indebted and suffering from a stagnant economy, Lebanon is in dire need of an administration that can set about long-stalled reforms to put public debt on a sustainable footing.
By Tom Perry and Laila Bassam
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon is on track to form a new national unity government in the next few days, politicians said on Tuesday, raising hopes for an end to more than seven months of wrangling that has darkened the outlook for its struggling economy.
Efforts to form the new government, led by Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri, have been obstructed by conflicting demands for cabinet seats that must be parcelled out in line with a finely balanced, sectarian political system.
Heavily indebted and suffering from a stagnant economy, Lebanon is in dire need of an administration that can set about long-stalled reforms to put public debt on a sustainable footing.
"Matters are moving quickly and if things stay like this without obstacles - and I don't expect obstacles - the government will soon see the light," Major General Abbas Ibrahim, a top security official involved in efforts to end the impasse, said in a televised news conference.
Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil told Reuters the process was "in the last phase and it is probable that the government will be formed before the Christmas holiday". "This will leave a positive impact on the financial and economic situation and open the way for a start to dealing (with) this file," he added.
Fitch Ratings on Tuesday changed Lebanon's outlook to negative from stable, citing a further deterioration in government deficits and debt dynamics and signs of rising pressures on Lebanon's financing model.
The May 6 national election, Lebanon's first in nine years, produced a parliament tilted in favour of the heavily armed, Iran-backed Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah, which together with its political allies won more than 70 of the 128 seats.
Hariri, who enjoys Western backing, lost more than one third of his lawmakers, though he remained Lebanon's biggest Sunni Muslim leader and as such was nominated again as prime minister.
His Future Movement said it was now possible "to wager" on the government being formed before the holidays, saying this was "a pressing matter" due to "economic and financial challenges".
In Washington, a State Department official said the United States hoped that Lebanon's next government would be willing to work with it "on areas of mutual interest" and expressed concern over Hezbollah's rising political clout in the country.
The United States is the biggest backer of the Lebanese army, providing more than $1.5 billion in support since 2006.
"We continue to have deep concerns regarding Hezbollah's growing political power inside Lebanon," the official told Reuters. "We are concerned about the efforts of Hezbollah's political allies that provide it with top cover and a veneer of legitimacy."
Efforts to form the government have faced a series of obstacles, the last of which surrounded Sunni representation, with Hezbollah demanding a cabinet seat for one of its Sunni allies to reflect their election gains.
Hezbollah is expected to get three ministries in the upcoming cabinet for the first time, instead of two, including the health ministry.
Hariri has resisted the demand.
But under a compromise that has taken shape, the Hezbollah-linked Sunnis are expected to be represented in government by a candidate acceptable to them rather than insisting that they themselves should get the seat.
In exchange, they say they want Hariri to acknowledge their political standing as a group of Sunnis independent of his Future Movement by meeting them. The Hariri family has dominated Lebanese Sunni politics for decades.
"Within two or three days - God willing - you will hear the news that the Lebanese masses were waiting for," Abdel Rahim Mrad, one of the pro-Hezbollah Sunni MPs, said after meeting Ibrahim. "All the problems have been solved."
The Sunni minister is expected to be named among a group of ministers allotted to President Michel Aoun, a compromise on the part of his Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). "Every solution requires a concession and everybody has conceded," Gebran Bassil, the head of the FPM and Aoun's son-in-law, said.
(Additional reporting by Dahlia Nehme in Beirut and Lesley Wroughton in Washington. Editing by Andrew Heavens, Richard Balmforth and James Dalgleish)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.
By Jessica Resnick-Ault NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices strengthened on Wednesday, as OPEC and its allies were seen complying with a pact to cut oil supply in September, even as concerns loomed that recovery in fuel demand will be stalled by soaring global coronavirus cases. Early in the day crude was boosted by a bullish stock market. Even as equities whipsawed on pandemic worries, oil stayed higher, buoyed by expectations that OPEC could staunch a supply glut
By Tina Bellon and C Nivedita (Reuters) - Tesla Inc will further cut the price of its Model S "Long Range" sedan in the United States to $69,420, the electric carmaker's chief executive, Elon Musk, announced in a tweet https://bit.ly/2H0JCP0 on Wednesday. The anticipated drop marks the second time this week Tesla has cut the price for the high-end sedan, following a 4% cut of the Model S's price in the United States on Tuesday to $71,990.
By Jeff Mason DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Under siege over his handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump on Wednesday cited what he said was his son's mild bout of the virus as a reason why American schools should reopen as soon as possible. Trump made the comment about his son, Barron, as the president swept into Iowa on a mission to shore up support in battleground states that he won in 2016 but is in danger of losing to Democrat Joe Biden barely three weeks before the election. First lady Melania Trump announced in a statement earlier in the day that the virus that struck both her and her husband had also infected their 14-year-old son