Lebanon faces ‘biggest danger’, needs elections, says patriarch

BEIRUT: Lebanon's top Christian cleric called on Sunday (Aug 16) for early parliamentary elections and a government formed to rescue the country rather than the ruling "political class" after the vast explosion in Beirut's port threw the nation into turmoil.

The now-caretaker cabinet resigned amid angry protests over the Aug 4 blast that killed more than 172 people, injured 6,000, left 300,000 homeless and destroyed swathes of the Mediterranean city, compounding a deep financial crisis.

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Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, who holds sway in Lebanon as head of the Maronite church from which the head of state must be drawn under sectarian power-sharing, warned that Lebanon was today facing "its biggest danger".

"We will not allow for Lebanon to become a compromise card between nations that want to rebuild ties amongst themselves," Al-Rai said in a Sunday sermon, without naming any countries.

"We must start immediately with change and quickly hold early parliamentary elections without the distraction of discussing a new election law and to form a new government.

Several MPs submitted their resignations over the port explosion but not in the number needed to dissolve parliament.

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Under the constitution, President Michel Aoun is required to designate a candidate for prime minister with the most support from parliamentary blocs. The presidency has yet to say when consultations will take place.

READ: Lebanon government resigns amid outrage over Beirut blast

There has been a flurry of Western and regional diplomacy after the blast that pitched Lebanon into a political vacuum and fuelled anger at politicians already accused of corruption and mismanagement. A financial meltdown had already ravaged the currency and froze depositors out of their savings.

Senior visiting French and US officials have linked any foreign financial aid with implementation of long-demanded reforms, including state control over the port and Lebanese borders.

Iran, seen as a major player in Lebanon through backing the powerful Shia movement Hezbollah that helped form the outgoing cabinet, has said the international community should not take advantage of Lebanon's pain to exert its will.Read More – Source