France will back Lebanon, including an IMF plan: Le Maire
By Aziz El Yaakoubi
ABU DHABI (Reuters) – France is looking at options to help Lebanon recover from its financial crisis, including an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme if Beirut seeks one, a minister said on Monday.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire also told reporters in Abu Dhabi that he had discussed the situation in Lebanon with the United Arab Emirates leadership.
“We are very concerned,” Le Maire said, adding that the United Arab Emirates and France will decide separately if and how to support the government in Beirut.
“We (France) are looking at different options, maybe an IMF programme if the Lebanese government asks for one… but we will not manage any effort to help Lebanon.”
Lebanon has been under pressure from international investors as well as local protesters, and its government is running out of options to avoid defaulting on its debts. An IMF team has discussed all possible options in recent meetings with Lebanese officials seeking technical advice.
As the crisis deepens, hitting ordinary Lebanese hard, there is no sign of foreign aid to the deeply indebted country.
In Riyadh, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday that he had discussed options for Lebanon with IMF and G7 finance officials over the weekend at a meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors.
“Lebanon is an area where we’d like to see both political and economic stability,” Mnuchin told CNBC in an interview. But he said the country would need to implement some difficult reforms.
“This isn’t about bailing out existing creditors or bailing out the economy,” Mnuchin said.
“The IMF is really there to support the economy and the politicians if they are willing to make the hard economic choices to move forward and strengthen their economy, which I think would be good for the people of Lebanon, and it’s too early for us to tell whether they’re willing to do that or not.”
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri rushed last year to Abu Dhabi seeking investments and financial aid when protests erupted against the country’s ruling elite.
However, Western and Sunni-led Gulf Arab states that helped in the past have made clear that any support depends on Beirut implementing long-delayed reforms to address root causes such as state corruption and bad governance.
“Each country will decide in a sovereign way what to do,” Le Maire said.
(Reporting by Aziz El Yakoubi; Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Alison Williams and Andrew Cawthorne)
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