11/26/2020, 12.38
LEBANON
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President Aoun and Patriarch al-Rahi discuss political and bank crises

The cardinal met with the president before leaving for the Vatican to meet Pope Francis and participate in next Saturday’s consistory. Aoun and al-Rahi share the same concerns over the stalemate preventing the formation of a new cabinet. Uncovering corruption in state institutions must be backed.

Beirut (AsiaNews/Agencies) – On the eve of his departure for the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis, the Maronite Patriarch Card Beshara al-Rahi spoke for a long time yesterday afternoon with Lebanese President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda

In the meeting, centred on Lebanon’s political, economic and social crises, the cardinal renewed his call for a rapid formation of a new cabinet and the forensic audit of the Bank of Lebanon and the country’s financial institutions.

"I am going to see the President of the Republic,” said the Maronite primate, “on the eve of a trip abroad" because today's visit "precedes a trip to the Vatican to thank Pope Francis for being close to Lebanon after the double explosion in the port of Beirut.”

In Rome, the cardinal will also participate in the consistory next Saturday that will see 13 new cardinals created.

The cardinal’s call in favour of Lebanese neutrality, a point of view at the centre of extensive debate at present, will be one of the items on the agenda of the meeting with the pontiff.

Al-Rahi again expressed his concern for many topical issues, including the forensic audit of the Bank of Lebanon "which must be followed by the government" and an investigation “into all ministries and state institutions" to “uncover” possible cases of corruption.

The cardinal backs President Aoun who is pressing for a thorough audit even if the international corporate restructuring firm (Alavarez & Marsal) left the country.

“The prime minister designate must prepare a complete plan and present it to the president so that he can assess it personally,” the prelate said.

The country "is dying and this is not the right way to form governments,” he explained. “We want an emergency, apolitical and non-partisan cabinet.” However, the negotiations seem to have become bogged down during the past month over the demands of the various sides.

In mid-October, Aoun tasked three-time Prime Minister Rafic Hariri with putting together a new cabinet. The crisis of the last year is but one of the many difficulties affecting Lebanon’s political and economic life, as well as its very political institutions.

The already precarious situation has worsened with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the two explosions that rocked the port of Beirut in August, finally pushing 55 per cent of the population below the poverty line amid a permanent emergency.

The extreme instability has triggered a spike in suicides and a rush to buy the few remaining drugs, whilst hospitals are in catastrophic conditions.

 

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