October 18, 2018 / 9:38 AM / a month ago

Lebanese government will be formed "very soon" - president

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s president said on Thursday a government would be formed very soon as political parties intensified negotiations to break a deadlock more than five months after elections.

A government source told Reuters the government is expected to be formed during the weekend.

Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri has been negotiating with Lebanon’s rival parties since a parliamentary election in May to form a new power-sharing cabinet, but they have so far been unable to reach consensus.

Asked by reporters on Thursday if a government would be agreed on, President Michel Aoun replied: “Yes, the government will be very soon or sooner.”

The major parties have jostled over the number of cabinet seats they should get and over the apportionment of the most powerful ministries. In recent days stepped-up talks between leaders have increased optimism that the deadlock may soon be broken.

“Forming the government is taking longer than expected but we will get there,” Hariri said on Tuesday.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri is expected to return to Lebanon from a trip abroad on Friday.

The delay has increased concern over the threat of an economic crisis in the heavily-indebted country. Lebanon has the third largest debt-to-GDP ratio in the world at more than 150 percent, and a new government is expected to start moves towards bringing down the deficit.

Writing by Lisa Barrington,; Additional reporting by Laila Bassam; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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