The country's deeply divided political class has so far failed to reach any consensus on a suitable candidate to be prime minister, a position always held by a Sunni Muslim.

A heritage house that was destroyed by the August 4 explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, is seen held by scaffolding, in Beirut, Lebanon, August 27, 2020.
A heritage house that was destroyed by the August 4 explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, is seen held by scaffolding, in Beirut, Lebanon, August 27, 2020. (AP)

Lebanon will hold parliamentary consultations on the choice of a new prime minister, three weeks after the government resigned over a deadly Beirut blast, the president's office said.

Monday’s consultations will coincide with a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to Lebanon, a former French protectorate. He will offer French support after the devastating August 4 port explosion but also ensure that millions in international aid go to those who need it.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government resigned on August 10, six days after nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded at Beirut’s port where they had been stored for six years.

The blast, the most destructive single incident in Lebanon’s history, killed more than 180 people, wounded nearly 6,000 and left nearly 300,000 people homeless.

Lebanon is also mired in its worst economic and financial crisis in decades and Western nations have said they will not help the tiny country before serious reforms are carried out because corruption and mismanagement are widespread.

Who could take the helm? 

President Michel Aoun’s office released a schedule of the consultations that will begin on Monday morning and end in the afternoon. The person who gets the largest backing from parliamentary blocs and members will be asked by Aoun to form a new Cabinet.

Among the names circulated in the press is that of independent candidate Nawaf Salam, a former Lebanese ambassador to the United Nations.

But Shia party Hezbollah, which controls a parliamentary majority with its allies and whose choice will likely be decisive, has rejected a "neutral government," and instead wants one gathering all the country's political forces.

Parliament speaker and head of the Shia Amal party, Nabih Berri, suggested again nominating former prime minister Saad Hariri, who resigned under street pressure last autumn.

But Hariri said this week he had no intention of returning to the post.

READ MORE: Exclusive: EU set for deeper intervention plan in Lebanon

Severe economic crisis

On Monday, France’s Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian said Lebanon is in such a deep political and economic crisis the country risks collapsing altogether.

During a visit to Beirut two days after the blast, Macron warned Lebanon’s political elite that he wouldn’t give “blank checks to a system that no longer has the trust of its people.” He called on them to create a “new political order.”

Lebanon has one of the highest debt ratios in the world and the local currency has lost 80 percent of its value since nationwide anti-government protests broke out in mid-October.

Deadly clashes

In Khaldeh, at Beirut's southern entrance, hundreds of mourners on Friday attended the funeral of Hassan Zaher Ghosn, 13, who was killed during Thursday night clashes between supporters of the militant Hezbollah group and Sunni tribesmen in the area.

The clashes left two people, a Lebanese and a Syrian, dead and three wounded and were stopped after the Lebanese army sent reinforcements.

The fighting briefly closed the main highway linking Beirut with southern Lebanon.

During Ghosn's funeral, anti-Hezbollah slogans were chanted as some young men fired their weapons in the air in protest.

READ MORE: Desperation and anger grow in Lebanon as majority now live in poverty

Source: TRTWorld and agencies