Lebanese president defies U.S. and French pressure, rejects new government
Lebanese President Michel Aoun rejected Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri's proposal for a new government, prompting Hariri's resignation and deepening the country's political crisis.
Why it matters: Lebanon's political stalemate is contributing to the country's economic collapse, and caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab has been pleading for international help to avert an imminent “social explosion." But key international players say they'll withhold aid without a new government and economic and political reforms.
Driving the news: Hours before Aoun rejected Hariri's proposal, Secretary of State Tony Blinken and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had sent a joint message to the Lebanese president stressing the need to form a new government as soon as possible.
- The message was conveyed by the U.S. and French ambassadors in Beirut on Thursday, a day after Blinken and Le Drian met in Washington and agreed to push for a new, reform-minded government in Beirut.
- Blinken and Le Drian also discussed possible sanctions against Lebanese politicians involved in corruption or in preventing the formation of a government.
- “We will coordinate the measures of French and American pressure against those responsible for this impasse," Le Drian said.
Flashback: Diab resigned after the Beirut explosion last August but political infighting has prevented the formation of a new government.
After Aoun rejected his proposed technocratic cabinet — which came after 8 months of negotiations — Hariri said it would be "impossible" to reach a deal with the president.
- "May God help Lebanon," he said.
The latest: The Lebanese pound plunged to a new low against the dollar after the news. It has lost more than 90% of its value over the past year.