Safadi gives up Lebanon PM bid under protest pressure

He expressed hope Hariri would be reinstated.
Sunday 17/11/2019
A "revolution" bus carrying Lebanese anti-government protesters on a cross-country trip from the north to the south is met by counter-protesters upon arriving in the southern city of Sidon on November 16, 2019. (AFP)
A "revolution" bus carrying Lebanese anti-government protesters on a cross-country trip from the north to the south is met by counter-protesters upon arriving in the southern city of Sidon on November 16, 2019. (AFP)

Lebanon's former finance minister Mohammed Safadi has backed down from seeking to be the country's new prime minister, after reports of his nomination sparked ire among demonstrators railing against the ruling elite.

The wealthy 75-year-old businessman and former finance minister Safadi said Saturday it would be difficult to form a "harmonious" government in the country rocked by a month of unprecedented nationwide protests demanding radical reform.

The tycoon said in a statement that he hoped outgoing prime minister Saad Hariri, who resigned on October 29 under pressure from the street, would be reinstated.

Protesters, who see Safadi as emblematic of a corrupt and incompetent establishment, had reacted angrily on Friday to media reports that key political players had chosen him for the top job.

Although there was no official confirmation of his nomination, demonstrators gathered in front of one of his properties in his hometown of Tripoli to protest against what they regarded as a provocation.

It came as the US embassy in Lebanon on Saturday expressed support for the cross-sectarian protest movement that has swept the Middle Eastern country since October 17.

"We support the Lebanese people in their peaceful demonstrations and expressions of national unity," the embassy said on Twitter.

Several mass rallies are planned for Sunday in cities across Lebanon to keep up the pressure on the country's rulers, widely seen as irretrievably corrupt and unable to deal with a deepening economic crisis.

The government has stayed on in a caretaker capacity since stepping down.

Some local players, notably the powerful pro-Iranian Shia movement Hezbollah, have accused "external parties" and Western embassies of supporting the popular uprising, including through financial backing.

On Saturday, a so-called "revolution bus" traversed the multi-religious country from north to south, decorated with the names of protest hotbeds.

According to protesters, the initiative sought to break down geographical and sectarian barriers and overcome the collective trauma of the 1975-1990 civil war.

(AFP)