U.S. urges Lebanese leaders to break political deadlock

Under Secretary of State David Hale, speaking after talks in Beirut with Lebanon's parliamentary speaker

  
A man holds a Lebanese flag during a protest in Beirut, Lebanon November 22, 2018. Image for illustrative purposes.

A man holds a Lebanese flag during a protest in Beirut, Lebanon November 22, 2018. Image for illustrative purposes.

REUTERS/Aziz Taher

BEIRUT- A senior U.S. official chided Lebanese leaders on Wednesday for their failure to break months of political deadlock and form a new government to address an economic crisis which has left millions facing growing hardship.

Under Secretary of State David Hale, speaking after talks in Beirut with Lebanon's parliamentary speaker, reiterated calls by Washington and its allies for politicians to tackle Lebanon's "distressing political and economic crisis"

Lebanon has endured a financial meltdown, with the currency losing up to 90% in value. A devastating explosion at Beirut port in August and the global coronavirus pandemic have compounded the country's woes.

But rival political factions have failed to bridge their differences and form a new administration to replace the government which resigned after last year's port blast.

"This is the culmination of decades of mismanagement, corruption and failure of Lebanese leaders to put the interests of the country first," Hale told reporters.

"America and the international community are ready to help, but we can do nothing meaningful without a Lebanese partner."

Hale, who is also due to meet Prime Minister designate Saad al-Hariri and President Michel Aoun, said they must show the flexibility needed to form a government capable of genuine reform.

"That is the only path out of this crisis. It is also only a first step," he said.

(Reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Hugh Lawson) ((Dominic.J.Evans@Thomsonreuters.com, @DominicJEvans;))

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