February 8, 2020 / 5:00 PM / 9 days ago

UPDATE 1-Lebanon's Aoun: foreign states, especially France, want to help Lebanon

(Adds quotes, details, context)

BEIRUT, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said on Saturday that foreign states, particularly France, had expressed a desire to help his country emerge from a severe economic crisis.

As Lebanon grapples with its worst economic and financial strains in decades, foreign donors have said they will only help if the government enacts long-stalled reforms.

Aoun said he had a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron and the two would speak again in the next few days.

“A number of states have expressed their desire to help Lebanon, with France at their forefront,” Aoun’s office quoted him as saying on Saturday in an interview with French magazine Valeurs Actuelles. It did not elaborate.

The new Lebanese government has approved a rescue plan that envisages seeking foreign help, calls for interest rate cuts, and warns some “painful steps” will be necessary, according to a copy seen by Reuters on Thursday.

The policy statement will be presented to parliament next week for a vote of confidence.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s cabinet was formed last month with the support of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement and its political allies, which hold a parliamentary majority.

The government must contend with a liquidity crunch, shattered confidence in banks, a weakened Lebanese pound and soaring inflation.

It took office some three months after Saad al-Hariri’s government resigned under pressure from nationwide protests against a ruling elite accused of corruption. (Reporting by Ellen Francis; editing by David Evans and Ros Russell)

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