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Lebanon cabinet will be announced Friday, PM-designate tells local media

BEIRUT (Reuters) -A new Lebanese government will be announced on Friday, the prime minister-designate was quoted as saying, after a year of political fighting that has exacerbated the country’s devastating economic collapse.

Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati told news outlet Lebanon 24 he was due to visit President Michel Aoun later on Friday and the government would be “announced today in the afternoon”.

The presidency said on Twitter that Mikati would meet Aoun, but without saying if they had reached an agreement on a government.

One official source told Reuters a cabinet line-up Mikati would present to Aoun was promising. Political sources said there had been intensive contacts through the night to try to reach an agreement.

The failure to agree a cabinet has left Lebanon without any effective government as the country has sunk deeper into a crisis which the World Bank has described as one of the sharpest implosions of modern times.

Mikati, a politician-businessman who was designated prime minister in July, has previously said he would seek to re-start negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) once his government was formed.

The cabinet formation has been derailed repeatedly by disagreements among political factions over the distribution of cabinet seats.

Mikati is the third prime minister-designate to attempt to form the government since the government resigned over a year ago in the aftermath of the Beirut port blast amidst the worsening economic meltdown.

Mikati, a Sunni Muslim, was designated after Saad al-Hariri, a former prime minister, abandoned his efforts. Hariri and Aoun, a Maronite Christian, traded blame over the failure.

Aoun’s political adversaries have accused him and his political party, the Free Patriotic Movement, of seeking effective veto power in the new government by demanding a third of the seats. Aoun has denied this repeatedly.

(Reporting By Maha El Dahan; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Andrew Heavens, William Maclean)

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