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Hassan Diab Picked as Lebanon’s PM, Vows Swift Cabinet Formation

Hassan Diab Picked as Lebanon’s PM, Vows Swift Cabinet Formation

Thursday, 19 December, 2019 - 12:45
Newly-assigned Lebanese Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, waves to journalists upon his arrival to meet with Lebanese President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace, in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Hassan Diab, a little-known academic and former education minister who was designated Lebanon’s premier on Thursday, vowed to form a government quickly to pull the country out of its economic crisis.

Diab was picked with backing from Hezbollah and its allies after President Michel Aoun launched the twice delayed binding consultations with lawmakers to designate a new PM.

Diab, 60, is a professor at the American University of Beirut, who held the education portfolio between 2011 and 2014.

He has a doctorate in computer engineering and is currently Vice President at AUB, according to his website.

Aoun held the official talks with lawmakers to name a new prime minister after caretaker Premier Saad Hariri announced on Wednesday he would not seek to keep his job.

Hariri had in recent days been seen as the most likely choice to head a technocrat-dominated government but he announced late Wednesday he was pulling out.

Hariri resigned on October 29, nearly two weeks into a nationwide cross-sectarian protest movement demanding the removal of a political elite seen as corrupt and incompetent.

"I have strived to meet their demand for a government of experts, which I saw as the only option to address the serious social and economic crisis our country faces," Hariri said in a statement.

But he explained that his designation for a third term as prime minister had drawn too much opposition from his political rivals.

Diab was endorsed on Thursday by Hezbollah, which with its political allies Amal movement and the Free Patriotic Movement, holds a majority in parliament.

He gained a simple majority of the 128-member parliament after sixty-nine lawmakers gave him their votes.

A new government is urgently needed to tackle a spiralling economic crisis which has left the country teetering on the brink of collapse.

In his first public address, Diab said he would work quickly to form a government that represents a wide array of people following consultations with political parties as well as representatives of the protest movement. He said he is committed to a reform plan and described the current situation as “critical and sensitive” and requiring exceptional efforts and collaboration.

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