In Lebanon, Ex-Premier Hariri Re-emerges as Top Pick for Post

In Lebanon, Ex-Premier Hariri Re-emerges as Top Pick for Post

BEIRUT — Lebanon’s leading Sunni Muslim politician, Saad Hariri, re-emerged as a candidate for prime minister on Sunday when the businessman Samir Khatib withdrew his candidacy to lead the government.

Mr. Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29 in the face of mass protests against an entire political class blamed for state corruption and for steering Lebanon into the worst economic crisis since its 1975-90 civil war.

Consultations on designating a new prime minister had been set for Monday, but on Sunday President Michel Aoun postponed those talks by one week, his office said. Mr. Aoun must designate the candidate with the greatest level of support among Lebanon’s 128 lawmakers.

Under the country’s power-sharing system, the prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim. Mr. Hariri has continued to govern in a caretaker capacity until a new prime minister is named.

After he quit, talks to settle on a new cabinet became mired in divisions between Mr. Hariri, who is aligned with Western and Gulf Arab states, and adversaries including the Shiite group Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran. Last month Mr. Hariri officially withdrew his candidacy to be prime minister.

A consensus on Mr. Khatib appeared to form last week among the main parties, including Mr. Hariri, but backing did not solidify from the Sunni Muslim establishment.

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, Lebanon’s most senior Sunni cleric, told Mr. Khatib during a meeting on Sunday that he backed Mr. Hariri, Mr. Khatib said.

Mr. Khatib said he learned that “agreement was reached on nominating Saad al-Hariri to form the coming government.”

The two men met Sunday at Mr. Hariri’s Beirut home, where Mr. Khatib announced that he was withdrawing his candidacy. There was no immediate statement from Mr. Hariri.

In recent days, as caretaker prime minister, Mr. Hariri has appealed to friendly foreign states to help Lebanon get lines of credit for essential imports. The country is grappling with a hard-currency shortage.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters have massed in recent weeks, demanding an end to corruption and mismanagement, as well as the crony sectarianism that enables it.

Mr. Hariri has said he would return as prime minister only if he could lead a government of specialists, rather than politicians, an attempt to satisfy the protesters, deal with the economic crisis and attract foreign aid.

Hezbollah and other groups have rejected the proposal, saying the government must include politicians.

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