PARIS - French President Emmanuel Macron will on Wednesday seek to raise more than $350 million in aid for Lebanon at a donors' conference marking the anniversary of the Beirut port blast, and send yet another warning to its squabbling political class.
One year since an explosion ripped through the capital's port and plunged Lebanon further into economic crisis, its politicians have yet to form a government capable of rebuilding the country, despite French and international pressure.
"Since the situation continues to deteriorate, the need for a government is becoming more and more urgent," an adviser to Macron told reporters.
France has led international efforts to lift its former colony out of crisis. Macron has visited Beirut twice since the port blast, raised emergency aid and imposed travel bans on some senior Lebanese officials in his quest for a reform package.
He has also persuaded the European Union to agree on a sanctions framework that is ready to be used.
But his initiatives, including obtaining commitments from Lebanese politicians to agree on a non-sectarian government of technocrats, have been in vain so far.
U.S. President Joe Biden will participate in the conference that is co-hosted by the United Nations, Macron's office said, along with about 40 other world leaders, including those of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Canada. Britain will be represented by its foreign minister.
Last year's conference in the wake of the blast raised about $280 million, with the emergency aid being kept away from what Macron called at the time the "corrupt hands" of politicians and channelled through NGOs and aid groups.
The new humanitarian aid will be unconditional, Macron's office said, but about $11 billion in long-term funding raised in 2018 remains locked away and conditional on a series of reforms to be implemented by political authorities.
(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Giles Elgood) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; +33149495071; Reuters Messaging: Twitter: https://twitter.com/MichelReuters))