U.S. Urges New Government to Make 'Tangible' Reforms
The United States has called on Lebanon's new government to enact serious reforms to tackle the twin challenges of a collapsing economy and angry street protests.
"The test of Lebanon's new government will be its actions and its responsiveness to the demands of the Lebanese people to implement reforms to fight corruption," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
"Only a government that is capable of and committed to undertaking real and tangible reforms will restore investor confidence and unlock international assistance for Lebanon," he added.
"The unified, non-sectarian, and largely peaceful protests over the last three months reflect the Lebanese people's aspirations for their political leaders to put aside partisan interests and to act in the national interest," Pompeo said.
Urging the government, army, and security services to guarantee the safety of citizens "as they engage in peaceful demonstrations," the top U.S. diplomat warned that "violence and provocative actions have no place in civil discourse."
In a tweet, Pompeo said that "the strength of any government lies in its actions and responsiveness to its people's demands."
State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus for her part said that "Lebanon's leaders must commit to the reforms necessary to respond to its people’s demands for an end to corruption & desire for better governance & economic opportunity."
"A credible cabinet must show it is willing & able to put aside partisanship & act in the nation's interest," she added in a tweet.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab said Wednesday that Lebanon faces a "catastrophe" after his newly unveiled cabinet held its first meeting.
Anger at what protesters see as a kleptocratic oligarchy was initially fueled by youth unemployment that stands at more than 30 percent and the abysmal delivery of public services such as water and electricity.
The long-brewing discontent was compounded by fears of a total economic collapse in recent weeks, with a liquidity crunch pushing banks to impose crippling capital controls.