Lebanon's al-Khatib ends PM candidacy, says Sunnis want Hariri again


Lebanese businessman Samir al-Khatib said on Sunday that he has withdrawn his candidacy to head the next government and that consensus was building for Prime Minister Saad Hariri to hold the post once again.

Hariri is serving as caretaker prime minister after resigning on 29 October amid weeks of massive anti-government protests. He remains in charge until a new government can be formed.

"I offer my apologies for not completing the mission I was nominated for," al-Khatib, who was the main candidate, said in a statement after meeting with Hariri, according to official Lebanese news agency.

Al-Khatib said that after he was nominated for the position he made contacts with political parties and was "subjected to unfair campaign from some biased people."  Earlier, al-Kahatib said there was consensus among the Sunni sect that Hariri, despite having resigned, will be asked to form the coming government.  

He made the comments about Hariri after meeting with Lebanon's Grand Mufti Abdul Latif Derian.

"I learnt from the mufti that after meetings and consultations with members of the Sunni Islamic sect, it was agreed to name Premier Saad Hariri to form the new government," al-Khatib said.

Late on Sunday, the office of President Michel Aoun said that "in light of the new developments" and "at the request of most of the major parliamentary blocs and to make room for further consultations" the binding parliamentary consultations to name a premier would be postponed.

Aoun's office said in a statement that the consultations, scheduled for Monday, would be postponed by a week to 16 December.

According to the constitution, the president has to consult with the blocs before he tasks a premier with forming a new government. In Lebanon, the president's post is reserved for a Christian Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliamentary speaker a Shia Muslim.

Since mid-October, huge rallies have taken place across the country, with demonstrators from various religious groups accusing the political class of mismanagement and corruption. The demonstrations led Hariri to resign. He has been prime minister since 2016 after previously serving from 2009-11.  

The protests have left Lebanon in economic and political turmoil, seen as the worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.    (dpa)

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