© Reuters. Lebanese President Michel Aoun speaks during a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Baabda
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Saturday that a forensic review of the central bank was vital to fighting corruption and that he would get it going again after the consultancy commissioned with the audit withdraws.
Aoun said "interest-related barriers" derailed the exam. This is a key requirement for foreign donors to help Lebanon out of a deep financial crisis that has posed the greatest threat to its stability since the 1975-1990 civil war.
The numerous crises in Lebanon include growing poverty, a political vacuum, coronavirus and the aftermath of a massive explosion in the port of Beirut in August that killed 200 people.
"Our reality today is not very promising," said Aoun in a televised address on Independence Day, adding that Lebanon is a prisoner of corruption, political intrigue and external dictates.
"If we want statehood, we have to fight corruption … and this starts with the introduction of forensic financial auditing," he said, adding that he would not "retreat" on the matter.
The caretaker's finance minister announced on Friday that the restructuring advisory firm Alvarez & Marsal had withdrawn from the audit because the central bank, citing banking secrecy, had not provided all the information necessary to carry out the task.
Lebanon has not formed a new government since the last was overthrown by the explosion. Saad al-Hariri, the Sunni Prime Minister-designate under a sectarian power-sharing deal, is fighting to form a cabinet amid turf wars.
France, the United States and other donors have made it clear that there would be no bailout unless a credible government were formed to carry out long-requested reforms to tackle endemic waste, corruption and mismanagement.
Aoun said uniform criteria should be used to form a government, referring to what official sources say he – along with his influential son-in-law, Gebran Bassil – insisted on appointing Christian ministers.
The president also touched on US-brokered talks between long-standing enemies Lebanon and Israel in order to demarcate their maritime borders. He hoped that they would bear fruit but that Lebanon would hold on to its "full sovereign borders".
He said the recent moves by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan to forge ties with Israel "imply a tacit acceptance of the loss of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights."
The United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and also as Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East War.
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