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Lebanon's Hariri suspends role in politics, says will not run in upcoming election

Lebanon's former prime minister Saad Hariri at a press conference in the capital Beirut, with a picture of his father Rafik in the background, on January 24, 2022 (Photo by AFP)

Lebanon's former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri says he is suspending his work in political life and will not run in the upcoming parliamentary elections, amid an ongoing economic crisis in the country.

Hariri made the announcement in a televised address on Monday, saying he is convinced that Lebanon does not have the chance for a positive future "in light of international disarray, national division, sectarianism, and the collapse of the state."

"We will continue to serve our people, but our decision is to suspend any role in power, politics and parliament," he said, urging members of his political party to do the same.

Hariri further acknowledged he had failed to prevent Lebanon from falling into the worst economic crisis in its modern history. 

He also noted that he will not run in parliamentary elections scheduled in May  and neither will members of the Future Movement, as he held back his tears while speaking in front of a portrait of his father.

Hariri, a three-time prime minister and current member of parliament, inherited the political leadership from his father, Rafik Hariri, after his assassination in 2005.

The latest development comes as the Lebanese cabinet has met for the first time since October, after Lebanon's Hezbollah resistance movement and Amal group announced ending a three-month boycott of the country's cabinet sessions.

The groups, which together back several ministers from various portfolios, made the announcement on Saturday,, saying the decision was driven by their desire to join consultations over the 2022 budget and the country's ongoing economic recovery.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati expressed hope that the cabinet would "cooperate in a spirit of responsibility, far from any disputes." But criticism of the budget suggests difficulties ahead.

Mikati hopes passing a budget will help talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which Lebanese officials say will begin on Monday.

Since late 2019, Lebanon has been mired in a deep financial crisis that has caused the Lebanese pound to lose around 90 percent of its value to the dollar and led its banking system to collapse.

Hezbollah and Amal initiated the boycott as a form of protest against the handling of an investigation into the huge Beirut port blast in 2020.

The groups have sought the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar, who has been overseeing the investigation, denouncing his "politicization" of the probe.

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