France has been quick to back former PM Saad al Hariri's proposal of an "independent" Shia candidate being given the finance portfolio to end a deadlock between two main Shia parties over ministers.
Lebanon's leading Sunni Muslim politician has proposed naming an independent Shia candidate for a key portfolio to end a deadlock preventing the formation of a cabinet during its worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. France, seen as heavily involved in Lebanon's internal matters, was quick to back the proposal on Wedneday.
Former prime minister Saad al Hariri proposed in a statement on Tuesday that PM-designate Mustapha Adib, a Sunni under Lebanon's sectarian system of power-sharing, name an "independent" Shia candidate to the finance portfolio.
It was not immediately clear whether the two main Shia groups, Hezbollah and its ally the Amal Movement, would back the idea. Pro-Hezbollah newspaper Al Akhbar was critical of the proposal.
A Shia picked by the Amal chief has run the Finance Ministry for years. Adib aimed to shake up ministerial posts.
Paris has been pressing Lebanese politicians to form a government quickly but the process hit a logjam over a demand by Lebanon's two main Shia parties that they name several ministers, including the finance minister.
The French Foreign Ministry welcomed the "courageous declaration" by Hariri.
"This declaration represents an opening and all parties should understand its importance so that a government of mission can now be established," it said.
Crisis after crisis
President Michel Aoun, a Christian allied to Hezbollah, said on Monday that Lebanon was going "to hell" if it could not form a government to tackle a crisis that has paralysed the banks, sent Lebanon's pound into free fall and plunged many into poverty.
Lebanon's problems were compounded by a devastating explosion on August 4 at Beirut port.
Subsequent fires in and around the area and Tuesday's blast in south Lebanon have further rattled the nation.
Hariri, traditionally aligned to Sunni Gulf Arab states, said his idea was to name "a finance minister from the Shia sect, who would be independent" but said this did not mean he accepted that the post should always be held by a Shia.
Promising signs in cabinet standoff
There are promising possibilities that could help end a deadlock over forming Lebanon's new cabinet, the deputy parliament speaker said after France backed Hariri's proposal.
"There are promising possibilities that can be built on, but we have to wait a bit," Deputy Parliament Speaker Elie Ferzli said.
He was also quoted by Lebanese broadcaster MTV as saying that Parliament speaker Nabih Berri, a Shia Muslim whose demand to choose the finance minister has been at the centre of the standoff, was "no longer pessimistic."
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