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U.S. stresses reform, anti-corruption as Hariri named Lebanese prime minister

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Business as usual in Lebanon is unacceptable and any new government must be committed to - and capable of implementing - reforms that bring economic opportunity, good governance and an end to endemic corruption, a top U.S. diplomat said on Thursday.

“Whatever government comes next must commit to and have the ability to implement reforms that can lead to economic opportunity, better governance and an end to endemic corruption,” Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker told reporters in a teleconference.

Schenker, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, declined to comment specifically about the naming of veteran Lebanese politician Saad al-Hariri as prime minister for a fourth time in the face of the country’s worst crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.

Hariri, a Sunni Muslim whose last coalition government was toppled a year ago amid protests against the country’s ruling elite, faces a long list of woes: a banking crisis, currency crash, rising poverty, state debts, a COVID-19 surge and the fallout of the August explosion at Beirut’s port that killed nearly 200 people and caused billions of dollars of damage.

“The United States has not commented or weighed in on specific individuals in Lebanon. We have maintained from the very beginning that what is important are the principles,” Schenker said, referring to reform, transparency, anti-corruption and accountability. “There is a lot to fix and so we are sticking with principles, rather than people, and so we are going to reserve judgment.”

Reporting by Jonathan Landay and Arshad Mohammed; editing by Jonathan Oatis