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Lebanon’s foreign minister resigns amid economic crisis

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BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s foreign minister resigned on Monday amid the severe economic crisis gripping the crisis-wracked Arab country, warning a lack of vision and a will to make changes risked turning the country into a “failed state.”

Nassif Hitti is the first Cabinet minister to defect from his post amid the severe economic and financial crisis striking the country. His resignation is a blow to Hassan Diab’s government, which has struggled to implement reforms amid rapidly spiraling inflation and soaring unemployment and poverty, made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

Hitti submitted his resignation to the prime minister and left the government house without making any comments. He later issued a strongly worded statement explaining his resignation, saying the government had failed to manage the crisis and implement the required reforms to save the country.

“After giving it a lot of honest thought, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot perform my duties in these historical circumstances,” Hitti said. He said he had decided to resign “due to the absence of a vision for Lebanon … and the absence of an effective will to achieve comprehensive structural reform.”

In a stark warning, he said Lebanon was turning into a “failed state” and urged politicians to rally around the country’s national interest.

“Otherwise the ship will sink with everyone on board,” Hitti said.

A career diplomat, Hitti became foreign minister in January as part of Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government. He was was reportedly unhappy with the government’s performance and lack of movement on promised reforms.

Local media reports said he also was angered by Diab’s criticism of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian following his visit to Beirut last month. Diab had said Le Drian “did not bring anything new” and was not properly informed about the reforms implemented by the Lebanese government.

It was not immediately clear whether his resignation would be accepted and whether one of the other ministers would assume his responsibilities in caretaker capacity until a new minister is appointed.

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