Lebanon Speaker Berri: new government could "see the light" in days

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Lebanon's parliament speaker Nabih Berri holds news conference in Beirut
Lebanon's parliament speaker Nabih Berri holds news conference in Beirut

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon's influential Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said on Wednesday that a new government could be formed within a few days if talks keep going positively.

Weeks of political dispute have delayed a deal on a new cabinet that must tackle a crippling financial meltdown - the worst crisis since a 1975-1990 civil war.

Veteran Sunni politician Saad al-Hariri was named premier for a fourth time last week, pledging to swiftly form a new cabinet which must then address a long list of problems.

Hariri stepped down a year ago as the crisis erupted and huge protests against the political elite swept the country. The currency has since collapsed, banks are paralysed and the state has defaulted on its hefty foreign currency debt.

A new government will have to agree a financial recovery plan, resume talks with the International Monetary Fund and enact overdue reforms to trigger foreign cash Lebanon badly needs. Otherwise, donors have made clear, there will be no aid.

The country is also grappling with a COVID-19 surge and the fallout of the August explosion at Beirut port that killed nearly 200 people and caused billions of dollars of damage.

Hariri has presented himself as the candidate to build a cabinet to implement a roadmap by former colonial ruler France which sought to rally Lebanese leaders to tackle the crisis.

"The coming government could see the light within four or five days if the positive atmosphere continues on the current track," the office of Shi'ite leader Berri, whose Amal party is allied with Iran-backed Hezbollah, quoted him as saying.

(Reporting by Laila Bassam and Ellen Francis; Editing by Dominic Evans)