Lebanon’s prime minister designate said he would work to form a government within six weeks to help pull the country out of a deepening economic crisis, dismissing accusations he would be dominated by the powerful Iranian backed-Hezbollah movement.
Hassan Diab, an academic and former education minister, was designated on Thursday as the next prime minister with the support of the heavily armed Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most influential group, and its allies.
“Previous governments in the last decade took a year to form and I seek to form a government in the next four weeks or a period that does not exceed six weeks,” Diab said in an interview with Deutsche Welle.
On Friday night, troops fired tear gas in Beirut to disperse hundreds of youths who were protesting against Diab’s designation, witnesses said.
The protesters threw rocks and fireworks at the soldiers in clashes in the streets of the Corniche al Mazzraa district. Many of the youths set tyres and fires broke out in several streets.
The designation set the stage for a cabinet without allies of the United States and Sunni Gulf Arab states while underlining the sway of Iran’s friends. The move will complicate efforts to secure Western financial aid, analysts say.
Lebanon, in its worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war, has been seeking a new government since Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri resigned on Oct. 29 in response to protests against a ruling elite seen as venal and incompetent.
Hariri was quoted in an interview with Lebanon’s MTV channel as saying “one has to brace for the worst.”
Senior U.S. State Department official David Hale, who arrived on Friday to underline Washington’s support for Lebanon’s stability, urged the bickering political leaders to implement speedy economic reforms.