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French foreign minister in Beirut for talks to end government deadlock

Jean-Yves Le Drian vows to send a ‘firm’ message in meetings with Lebanese leaders aimed at speeding up cabinet formation.

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French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is in Beirut for dialogues with Lebanese leaders in an effort to end months of political immobilization that has delayed the formation of a new government in the crisis-hit country.

On Thursday morning, Le Drian met President Michel Aoun at Baabda Palace for approximately 30 minutes, during which they conversed over the developments regarding the government formation process, according to a presidential statement.

Aoun asserted it was his constitutional duty to “maintain sectarian and political balance in the government formation process”. He also assured the French foreign minister that Lebanon was taking the reforms promised to France in September last year and asked for assistance in an investigation into looted funds transferred abroad.

Le Drian later met Speaker Nabih Berri in Ain el-Tine. He did not make a public statement.

In a Twitter post on Wednesday evening, Le Drian said he was planning to send a “message of great firmness to political leaders” during the talks.

“Firmness in the face of those hindering the formation of a government”, he said. “We have taken national action, and this is just the start”.

Lebanon has been functioning with a limited caretaker government since Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned on August 10, days after a massive explosion at the Beirut port left hundreds dead and wrecked much of the capital. The country continues to reel from a crippling socio-economic crisis that has rendered more than half its population into poverty.

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