No global financial support for Lebanon until government in place -French presidency

Speaking ahead of an aid conference, a French presidential official said world powers would continue to pressure the political class

  
A woman walks outside of Lebanon's Central Bank building in Beirut, Lebanon March 16, 2018.

A woman walks outside of Lebanon's Central Bank building in Beirut, Lebanon March 16, 2018.

REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

PARIS- President Emmanuel Macron will try to revive a French initiative on Lebanon when he hosts an international aid conference on Wednesday evening, but with the country's fractious political class bickering, hopes of a breakthrough appear slim.

Four months after a massive explosion that killed more than 200 people and destroyed swathes of the capital city, Lebanon is no closer to forming a credible government to overhaul the bankrupt state despite French efforts to convince politicians to introduce partial reforms to confront the emergency.

France, the United States and other donors who repeatedly came to Lebanon's aid since the 1975-90 civil war are losing patience with its politicians, many of them familiar faces in charge during the country's descent into economic crisis.

"To borrow or lend money you need trust and trust isn't there," a French presidential official told reporters in a briefing. "We will stay like this as long as there is no credible government in place."

Co-hosted with the United Nations, several heads of state and governments will attend the video conference.

Macron, a natural ally given Lebanon is a former French colony, has invested a lot of political capital in trying to break the deadlock, vowing to not give up on the Lebanese.

He is due to visit French troops operating as part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon around Dec. 20, diplomats said.

Having seen deadlines to form a government pass and political talks stall, Macron opted to go ahead with an aid conference to take stock of the situation.

However, officials have made it clear that Lebanon will not be bailed out without structural reforms, a full audit of the central bank and that any immediate aid will only be to help recovery and be distributed directly to the population.

"Lebanon will not escape this type of audit if it wants serious negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. It is indispensable otherwise it's bankruptcy," the official said.

A similar conference in August raised nearly 253 million euros ($298 million) in pledges. The official said Wednesday's conference should raise a bit more.

"When there's no Plan B, France always organises a conference," said a Western diplomat, adding that the Lebanon situation was unlikely to evolve before a new U.S. administration was firmly in place.

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Angus MacSwan) ((john.irish@thomsonreuters.com; 0033-1 49 49 53 42;))

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