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Lebanese businessman Khatib withdraws name from premiership

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra on December 8, 2019 shows Lebanon's outgoing Prime Minister Sa'ad al-Hariri (R) shaking the hand of Lebanese businessman Samir al-Khatib in the capital Beirut. (Photo by AFP)

Lebanese businessman Samir al-Khatib, one of the leading candidates for the position of prime minister, has withdrawn his candidacy to lead the next government, paving the way for caretaker Prime Minister Sa’ad al-Hariri to re-emerge for the job.

Khatib on Sunday announced his withdrawal from efforts to form a new government that must tackle an acute economic crisis.

He is an executive vice president of Khatib & Alami engineering company.

The businessman reportedly met Lebanon’s caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil on December 3 after holding talks with President Michel Aoun at the Baabda Palace to gain their support for the post.

Hariri submitted his resignation to President Aoun on October 29 under pressure from protesters who accuse the ruling elite of pushing Lebanon toward political turmoil at a time of economic woes.

Hariri said at the time that he had reached a “dead end” in trying to resolve the economic crisis.

Currently, Lebanese political parties are negotiating to find a way out of the cabinet crisis.

Under Lebanon's power-sharing system, the prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim. Hariri’s cabinet would stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new prime minister is named.

A consensus on Khatib appeared to form last week among the main parties, including Hariri, who told reporters on December 3 that he backed Khatib to head the next cabinet but added that “some details” still had to be hashed out.

However, the businessman failed to win enough backing from the Sunni Muslim establishment for the post.

In a meeting with Khatib on Sunday, Lebanon's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian told him that he throws his weight behind Hariri.

“I learnt ... that as a result of meetings and consultations and contacts with the sons of the (Sunni) Islamic sect, agreement was reached on nominating Sa’ad al-Hariri to form the coming government,” Khatib said.

He then went to see Hariri at his residence in Beirut where he announced his withdrawal from candidacy. Hariri has made no immediate statement.

It is scheduled that formal consultations to designate the new prime minister will be held at the presidential palace on Monday.

President Aoun must designate the candidate with the greatest level of support among Lebanon's 128 lawmakers.

He said on Thursday that carrying out essential reforms and fighting corruption in Lebanon will be among the new government’s top priorities.

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