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GOVERNMENT FORMATION

Lebanon’s top Christian cleric urges politicians to form government

BEIRUT — Lebanon's top Christian cleric urged fractious politicians on Sunday to speed up the formation of a government to allow authorities to prepare for presidential elections due before the end of October.

Lebanon's Najib Mikati was nominated premier for a fourth time on Thursday after securing the support of 54 of Parliament's 128 lawmakers, including the Iran-backed Shiite Muslim party Hezbollah, in consultations convened by President Michel Aoun.

But with splits running deep among Lebanon's ruling elite, it is widely believed Mikati will struggle to form a government, spelling political paralysis that could hamper reforms agreed with the International Monetary Fund to unlock aid.

"Again I demand speeding up formation of a national government with the country's pressing need for it and so that the focus can immediately be on preparations to elect a president who saves the country," Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai said at a sermon on Sunday.

"We call on all parties to cooperate with the premier designate...," he added.

Analysts and politicians expect the process of forming a cabinet to be further complicated by a looming struggle over who will replace Aoun, the Hezbollah-aligned head of state, when his term ends on Oct. 31.

This could further delay reforms needed to unlock $3 billion in IMF support needed to ease the country's financial crisis.

Now in its third year, the financial meltdown has sunk the currency by more than 90 percent, spread poverty, paralyzed the financial system and frozen depositors out of their savings, in Lebanon's most destabilising crisis since the 1975-90 Civil War.



BEIRUT — Lebanon's top Christian cleric
urged fractious politicians on Sunday to speed up the formation
of a government to allow authorities to prepare for presidential
elections due before the end of October.
Lebanon's Najib Mikati was nominated premier for a fourth
time on Thursday after securing the support of 54 of Parliament's 128 lawmakers, including the...