Hezbollah, ally, ends cabinet boycott in crisis-stricken Lebanon

BEIRUT (AP) – Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group and its main Shiite allies said on Saturday that they are ending their boycott of cabinet meetings after a three-month stalemate that has exacerbated the small nation’s unprecedented economic meltdown.

The two Shiite groups said in a joint statement that they would attend cabinet meetings to approve a new budget and measures to deal with the two-year crisis and to discuss a recovery plan. They said they would attend due to the accelerated economic deterioration in recent weeks.

The two groups had boycotted the government since October and demanded changes in the national inquiry into the August 2020 devastating explosion in the port of Beirut and effectively paralyzed the government.

Hezbollah had called for the removal of the judge at the port blast and accusations of bias. Judge Tarek Bitar, meanwhile, has faced a number of legal challenges and lawsuits demanding his dismissal, forcing him to suspend the investigation at least four times. The investigation is currently suspended.

Bitar had summoned and charged several senior officials with charges of intentional negligence leading to the explosion, which killed more than 200 people and injured thousands. The two Shiite groups vowed to continue their efforts to remove the judge investigating the harbor blast.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati welcomed the decision of two groups to end their government boycott. He said earlier this month that the state budget should be ready for discussion within a few days.

A government-approved recovery plan is a precondition for resuming discussions with the International Monetary Fund. Lebanese officials had said an agreement would be possible before the end of January, a timeline that is unlikely now after weeks without government meetings. An IMF delegation is expected soon to Lebanon.

Lebanon’s economic crisis, which began to unfold in late 2019, is rooted this year with poor leadership and corruption from the same political class that has been in power for years. The crisis has driven more than half of the population into poverty, caused the national currency to collapse, and inflation and unemployment have risen sharply.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.

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