February 11, 2020 / 7:18 AM / 13 days ago

Lebanon's Berri sees need for IMF help to draw up rescue plan: source

FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri arrives to attend the cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri believes Lebanon needs technical help from the IMF to draw up an economic rescue plan and a decision on whether to pay a Eurobond maturing in March should be taken based on IMF advice, an-Nahar newspaper and a government source said on Tuesday.

Berri also believes Lebanon cannot “surrender” itself to the IMF “because of its “incapacity to bear its conditions,” said the government source, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, and an-Nahar, quoting Berri’s visitors.

One of the world’s most heavily indebted states, Lebanon is facing an unprecedented economic and financial crisis that has led banks to impose informal capital controls to prevent capital flight and the currency to lose a third of its value.

Berri is one of the most influential figures in the country and his Amal Movement named a number of ministers in the cabinet of Prime Minister Hassan Diab which took office last month, including the minister of finance.

Berri said Lebanon must take advantage of the time remaining before its next debt maturity on March 9 to send a message abroad, “specifically to the Americans” that the country needs IMF technical help through a rescue plan.

“There is still room for Lebanon during the coming two weeks and before the end of the current month to benefit from this measure,” Berri was cited as saying.

Based on this, “Lebanon will be able to form its position on the maturing Eurobonds - whether to pay its commitments or not to pay them - based on what the IMF advises.”

But Berri also said the Lebanese people would be unable to bear IMF conditions, saying Lebanon was not Greece or Argentina - countries that have experienced their own financial crises.

Reporting by Tom Perry, Samia Nakhoul, Ayat Basma; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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