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French envoy in Lebanon to seek way out of political deadlock

Lebanon's parliament speaker Nabih Berri (R) receives French special envoy Jean-Yves Le Drian in Beirut
— Beirut (AFP)

Lebanon's powerful parliament speaker Nabih Berri met Tuesday with French special envoy Jean-Yves Le Drian, in Beirut to help resolve divisions that have left the presidency vacant for nearly nine months.

A statement from Berri's office said the meeting was "good" and that "an opening has pierced through" Lebanon's power vacuum, without elaborating.

Mired in a gruelling economic crisis since 2019, Lebanon has been governed by a caretaker cabinet for more than a year and without a president since late October.

Le Drian, on his second mission to Lebanon, gave no public statement after the meeting with Berri.

The French envoy is set to hold discussions with other political leaders during his three-day visit.

Le Drian "is coming to present the results of the Doha meeting and his talks in Saudi Arabia," a French diplomatic source told AFP, referring to recent moves meant to encourage Lebanon to name a new president.

"He will try to reconcile points of view and create favourable conditions for a consensual solution to emerge," the source added.

Lebanese lawmakers failed 12 times to elect a successor to former president Michel Aoun amid bitter disputes between the powerful Iran-backed Shiite movement Hezbollah and its opponents.

On July 17, representatives of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United States, France and Qatar gathered in Doha to discuss Lebanon, urging parliament to choose a president and politicians to "take immediate steps to break the impasse".

"We discussed concrete options with respect to implementing measures against those who are blocking progress on this front," the statement said.

Le Drian came to Lebanon last month for the first time as France's envoy, meeting key figures on a "consultative" mission to push for a solution to the protracted political deadlock.

Multiple attempts spearheaded by Lebanon's former colonial ruler France to extricate the country from its woes have ended in failure.