France and US chide Lebanese politicians amid warnings of 'collapse'

·2-min read
A man stands next to flaming tires at a make-shift roadblock set up by anti-government demonstrators in Beirut in a protest against dire economic conditions and a political impasse

France and the United States hit out at Lebanon's warring politicians on Thursday, with Paris saying they were failing to help the country as it slid towards "total collapse".

"It's tempting to say it is a case of non-assistance to a country in danger by Lebanese politicians," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a news conference.

"Everyone knows what needs to be done."

France has taken a leading role in trying to break the political deadlock in its former protectorate, with President Emmanuel Macron visiting the country twice last year.

Lebanon's deeply divided political class has failed to agree on a new cabinet since a massive explosion in Beirut port last August that killed more than 200 people and led to the government's resignation.

Le Drian said "nothing has happened" since Macron's visits when he pushed a plan for the political parties to form a non-sectarian government of experts which would be tasked with carrying out economic reforms and tackling corruption.

"I do believe that it is still not too late, but we're running out of time before total collapse," the French minister added.

The US supported Le Drian's statement, saying that Lebanon's leaders have shown "inaction in the face of multiple ongoing crises".

"The Lebanese people -- we believe they deserve a government that will urgently implement the necessary reforms to rescue the country's deteriorating economy," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in Washington.

"Lebanon's political leaders need to put aside their partisan brinksmanship, they need to change course, they need to work for the common good and common interest of the Lebanese people," he said.

Lebanon is mired in protests and an economic crisis, which has brought surging unemployment and spiralling prices while the currency has plunged to lows to the dollar on the black market.

French officials have repeatedly voiced their exasperation at what they see as Lebanese politicians failing to put the interests of the country before their own.

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