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New government in Lebanon ends three-month deadlock

Hassan Diab now heads a Cabinet of 20 members.

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Lebanese prime minister Hassan Diab (Bilal Hussein/AP)

Lebanese prime minister Hassan Diab (Bilal Hussein/AP)

Lebanese prime minister Hassan Diab (Bilal Hussein/AP)

A new Cabinet has been announced in crisis-hit Lebanon, breaking a months-long impasse amid ongoing mass protests against the country’s ruling elite.

Hassan Diab, a 60-year-old professor at the American University of Beirut, now heads a Cabinet of 20 members, mostly specialists backed by political parties.

The move, which comes three months after former prime minister Saad Hariri resigned, is unlikely to satisfy protesters.

They have been calling for sweeping reforms and a government made up of independent technocrats that could deal with the country’s crippling economic and financial crisis, the worst this tiny Mediterranean country has faced in decades.

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The announcement came amid ongoing mass protests (Hussein Malla/AP)

The announcement came amid ongoing mass protests (Hussein Malla/AP)

AP/PA Images

The announcement came amid ongoing mass protests (Hussein Malla/AP)

Shortly before the Cabinet was announced, thousands of people poured into the street closing major roads in the capital Beirut and other parts of the country in rejection of the new government.

Their anger was directed at political groups, saying they had named the new ministers.

“It’s time to get to work,” Mr Diab said in a speech addressing the country following the announcement.

He saluted the protesters in the street and vowed to “work to fulfil your demands,” claiming that his was the first government in the history of Lebanon to be made up entirely of technocrats.

He insisted the 20 ministers were specialists who had no political loyalties and were not partisan.

Mr Diab appealed to citizens to help the government implement a “rescue programme” and said this Cabinet has the “capability and qualifications, will and commitment” to carry it through.

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Lebanese prime minister Hassan Diab speaks after his government was announced (Bilal Hussein/AP)

Lebanese prime minister Hassan Diab speaks after his government was announced (Bilal Hussein/AP)

AP/PA Images

Lebanese prime minister Hassan Diab speaks after his government was announced (Bilal Hussein/AP)

Among the ministers named were five women, including the minister of defence and deputy prime minister.

The country has been without a government since Mr Hariri resigned on October 29, two weeks into the unprecedented nationwide protest movement.

For three months, the leaderless protests have been calling for a government made up of specialists that can work on dealing with the economic crisis.

The protests have recently turned violent, with around 500 people injured in violent confrontations between protesters and security forces over the weekend.

The heads of the main ministries include career diplomat Naseef Hitti for the Foreign Ministry.

Economist Ghazi Wazni was named finance minister and former army General Mohammed Fahmi was named minister of the interior.

Zeina Akar was named minister of defence and deputy prime minister.

PA