Three major Lebanese parties agreed to nominate former Lebanese minister of finance Mohammad Safadi to become prime minister, three sources familiar with the situation said, suggesting progress toward a new government amid an economic crisis.
Saad al-Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29 in the face of a wave of protests against politicians they blamed for rampant state corruption and steering Lebanon into its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
The consensus on Safadi emerged in a meeting late on Thursday between Hariri, a leading Sunni politician aligned with Western and Persian Gulf states, and representatives of the Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah and its Shiite ally Amal.
The news was first reported by Lebanese broadcasters Lebanese Broadcasting Corp International and Murr Television.
A source familiar with the meeting said that Hariri had expressed no objections to Safadi’s nomination, adding that members of parliament from Hariri’s Future Movement would nominate Safadi in a formal process expected to begin soon.
A second source, a senior figure close to Amal and Hezbollah, said agreement in principle on Safadi’s nomination had emerged at the meeting.
There was no official confirmation from the parties or Safadi.
Safadi, 75, is a prominent businessman and also a former minister of the economy and trade from the predominantly Sunni city of Tripoli.
Lebanon’s prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim, according to its sectarian power-sharing system.
The next government faces huge challenges.
It must win international financial support seen as critical to alleviating the economic crisis, while addressing the challenge posed by a nationwide protest movement that wants to see the old elite gone from power.
Lebanon’s long-brewing economic crisis, rooted in years of state waste, corruption and mismanagement, has deepened since the protests began. Banks have imposed controls on transfers abroad and US dollar withdrawals.
Hariri had said he would only return as prime minister of a Cabinet of specialist ministers that he believed would be best placed to win aid and save Lebanon from crisis. To that end, he has been holding many closed-door meetings with other parties.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people on Thursday massed for the funeral of a protester who was shot dead during the street protests.
Mourners from across the country flooded Choueifat, the hometown of Alaa Abu Fakhr southeast of Beirut, shouting “revolution, revolution.”
Abu Fakhr, aged 38 and a father of three, died on Tuesday after an army officer opened fire as demonstrators blocked roads in the coastal town of Khalde south of Beirut.
He has been dubbed the “Martyr of the Revolution” by protesters who have taken to the streets since Oct. 17.
Carrying Lebanese flags, mourners joined his family in Choueifat for a ceremony and then the burial.
“We are free revolutionaries and we will continue our movement,” the mourners chanted as they marched behind Abu Fakhr’s coffin, which was draped in the Lebanese flag.
News of his death was met with shock and anger among protesters, who blocked roads and set tires and rubbish bins ablaze.
They held massive nationwide protests on Wednesday and more demonstrators filled the streets on Thursday evening.
Some demonstrators laid wreaths of flowers or lit candles, while others hung up pictures of Abu Fakhr, bearing the words “Martyr of the revolution against the tyrants.”
In the northern port of Tripoli, Lebanon’s second city, a street artist has painted a commemorative mural of him on the facade of a building overlooking Al-Nour Square, the main hub of the largely peaceful protests for nearly a month.
Additional reporting by AFP
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