Tue, 29 Sep 2020

Lebanese Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti resigned on Monday, becoming the first cabinet minister to defect from his post amid the severe economic and financial crisis striking the country.

A career diplomat, Hitti submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Hassan Diab and left the government house without making any comments. He was was reportedly unhappy with the government's performance and lack of movement on promised reforms.

Local media reports said Hitti was also angered by Diab's criticism of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian following his visit to Beirut last month. Diab had said Le Drian "did not bring anything new" and was not properly informed about the reforms implemented by the Lebanese government.

It was not immediately clear whether Hitti's resignation would be accepted and whether one of the other ministers would assume his responsibilities in caretaker capacity until a new minister is appointed.

Lebanon's financial crisis, rooted in decades of state corruption and waste, marks the biggest threat to the country's stability since the 1975-90 civil war. A collapsing currency has led to soaring inflation and poverty, and savers have lost free access to accounts in a paralysed banking system.

>> Lebanon's neo-liberal wheels sped to a dream future, but the past applies the brakes

During his visit, France's Le Drian made no secret of his exasperation with a leadership he described as passive. "Concrete actions have been expected for too long," the French foreign minister told reporters after talks with Hitti.

The free-falling economy has sparked mass protests since October against a political class accused of being incompetent and corrupt. Tens of thousands have lost their jobs or part of their income.

After the country defaulted on its debt for the first time in March, the government pledged reforms and two months ago started talks with the International Monetary Fund. But the negotiations have hit a wall, with two top members of the government's own team resigning, allegedly in frustration at the administration's lack of commitment to reform.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

Orginally published on France24

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