LebanonMiddle East

Lebanon ship will sink entirely unless action is taken: Berri

Lebanon is like a sinking ship that will submerge unless “necessary” action is taken, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has said.

“The country is like a ship that is sinking little by little,” he was quoted by Al Joumhouria newspaper as saying. “If we don’t take the necessary steps, it will sink entirely.”

Berri said efforts to form a new government had been “completely frozen.”

An-Nahar newspaper also quoted him as likening the situation of the Lebanese people to that of passengers on the Titanic, the cruise ship that sank in 1912.

Lebanese media earlier said major political parties, including the resistance movement Hezbollah and its allied Amal group, had agreed to allow former finance minister and business tycoon Mohammad Safadi to form a new government.

Prime Minister Sa’ad al-Hariri resigned on October 29.

Some say the protests against corruption and mismanagement would only escalate if Safadi takes charge of a new government.

President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) has accused the former premier of undermining Safadi’s bid for the position in order to keep the job for himself.

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Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem, in recent comments to media, said “political understandings” would take place between “the parties and even with leaders of the protest movement” to form a new government.

Sheikh Qassem also said the new government’s agenda would help to calm down the streets.

Both Hezbollah and Berri have said their preference is for Hariri to return again as prime minister, a post reserved for a Sunni Muslim in Lebanon’s power-sharing system.

The nominee for the post should be endorsed by President Aoun, who himself should consult members of parliament.

Since October 17, protesters have held nationwide rallies, expressing discontent with what they view as the government’s failure to find solutions for the country’s economic woes.

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The Lebanese Finance Ministry says the national debt is hovering around $85 billion, which accounts for more than 150 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

More than 25 percent of the Lebanese live in poverty, according to the World Bank.

In the meantime, the United States its Persian Gulf allies have imposed sanctions on Lebanese economic assets and figures for alleged cooperation with Hezbollah.

On Monday, a union representing bank staff said banks would be operating normally on Tuesday after a decision to end the strike. It cited an interior ministry security plan and the newly declared measures announced by the banking association as the reason for the decision to go back to work.

“Tomorrow the banking sector will no longer be on strike. Tomorrow is a normal working day in all banks and all branches,” said George al-Haj, the president of the Federation of Syndicates of Bank Employees.

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