Lebanon names billionaire businessman as PM-designate

Photo: AP Najib Mikati

Leading Lebanese businessman Najib Mikati secured enough votes in parliamentary consultations on Monday to be designated the next prime minister, raising hopes for an urgently needed viable government to tackle a crippling financial crisis, news wires reported. Mikati said he would work to form a government and implement a French plan to save the country from its crippling financial crisis.

"I don't have a magic wand and can't perform miracles ... but I have studied the situation for a while and have international guarantees," Mikati said after he won a majority of votes in parliamentary consultations to be nominated.

France's plan includes a government of specialists capable of initiating enough reforms to attract foreign aid.

Mikati, who has been prime minister twice before and unlike many Lebanese leaders does not hail from a political bloc or dynasty, received 72 votes out of a total of 118 members of parliament.

Like the previous nominee, Saad al-Hariri, he now faces major challenges in navigating Lebanon's sectarian, power-sharing structure to secure agreement on a cabinet equipped to address the country's financial meltdown.

While Lebanon has been run by a caretaker administration for nearly a year, since a huge blast devastated large parts of Beirut, its currency has collapsed, jobs have vanished and banks have frozen accounts. The economic freefall is Lebanon's worst crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.

Hezbollah, the heavily armed Shiite Islamist movement that the United States deems a terrorist group, nominated Mikati in Monday's consultations and most of the main parliamentary blocs endorsed the choice.

Among Mikati's endorsers was Hariri, who abandoned his effort to form a new government last week after nearly 10 months of failing to agree its composition with Aoun. Hariri told reporters after meeting Aoun that he hoped Mikati, a telecoms tycoon, would be chosen and succeed in forming a cabinet. "The country has a chance today," he said.

In Lebanon's political system, the post of prime minister has to be held by a Sunni Muslim, while the presidency is held by a Maronite Christian.

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