Members of the new Lebanese government pose for a picture at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon January 22, 2020. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s new cabinet is due to meet for the first time on Wednesday, bearing a message of support from the United Nations as ministers begin the urgent task of addressing an unprecedented economic crisis.
The government, under Prime Minister Hassan Diab, was formed on Tuesday after the Iranian-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah and its allies agreed on a cabinet of 20 specialists.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres will work with Diab to support the reform agenda, Guterres’ spokesman said in a statement, reiterating the U.N.’s commitment to strengthening Lebanon’s sovereignty, stability and political independence.
The heavily indebted state has been without effective government since Saad al-Hariri, Lebanon’s main Sunni leader and a traditional ally of the West and Gulf Arab states, quit as premier in October following widespread protests against politicians who have led Lebanon into its worst crisis since the 1975-90 war.
Diab was nominated by Hezbollah and allies last month. Hezbollah is designated as a terrorist group by the United States.
Protesters took to the streets of Beirut as the new government was announced and closed roads in several cities using tyres and other make-shift barriers.
New Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni said on Tuesday that Lebanon needed foreign aid to save it. He described forthcoming foreign currency sovereign debt maturities as “a fireball”.
Reporting by Tom Perry; Editing by Tom Hogue and John Stonestreet