November 2, 2019 / 4:57 PM / a month ago

Lebanon president seeks to solve 'complications' before new PM consultations

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s president said on Saturday he will soon set a date for formal consultations with lawmakers to pick a new prime minister following Saad al-Hariri’s resignation this week, but is working to resolve some complications first.

FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's President Michel Aoun presides a cabinet session at the Baabda palace, Lebanon October 21, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo

President Michel Aoun is obliged to hold a formal period of consultations with members of parliament and designate the figure with the most support as the new prime minister who will be tasked with forming a government.

Aoun has not yet set a date for those consultations to begin, but said he had been making the “necessary calls” to lay the ground for them to start.

“The challenges in front of the future government require a rapid but not hasty approach to the designation process, because rushing in such cases can have harmful consequences,” the presidency media office said in a statement. The statement said Aoun needed to resolve some complications but did not elaborate.

Prime Minister Hariri resigned on Tuesday after nationwide anti-government protests.

The protests have been less intense since he resigned, but demonstrators are still on the streets, and one of their main demands is for the rapid formation of a new government led by technocrats to carry out badly needed economic reforms.

The nationwide protests that erupted on Oct. 17 tipped Lebanon into political turmoil as it grapples with the worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.

The uprisings caused banks to close for two weeks on security concerns. Analysts and bankers had cited widespread concern about a rush by depositors to withdraw their savings or transfer them abroad when the banks reopened.

No formal capital controls were imposed when banks opened their doors on Friday, but customers encountered new curbs on transfers abroad and withdrawals from U.S. dollar accounts, bankers and customers said.

The head of Lebanon’s banking association said banks did not see “any extraordinary movement” of money on Friday or Saturday. Central bank Governor Riad Salameh said the reopening of banks “in general ... did not cause any disturbance at any bank”.

Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Frances Kerry

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