Lebanese PM says central bank governor should stay for now

BEIRUT – Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Tuesday that central bank governor Riad Salameh is expected to remain in office for now despite investigations into embezzlement against him at home and abroad.

Speaking to reporters, Mikati said that “you don’t change officers during a war” in reference to Salameh, adding that he would wait for the results of investigations.

Salameh denied any wrongdoing or taking a dime of public funds.

Mikati also called for a national dialogue on foreign policy and improved relations with the Arab Gulf countries.

Mikati’s government, which is focused on resuming talks with the International Monetary Fund to unlock much-needed foreign aid, has not met since October 12, due to a dispute over an investigation into the deadly explosion in the port of Beirut last year.

Mikati said that while he bears the responsibility for the government’s failure to meet, he will not call a meeting that could lead the government to defeat.

“I have held back from calling a meeting so that things don’t get more complicated,” he said.

Iran-allied Hezbollah and its Shiite ally Amal want the judge investigating the 2020 port explosion removed and have refused to allow cabinet to meet until the issue either on the agenda. Mikati said the matter fell outside the powers of the cabinet.

(Reporting by Timour Azhari; writing by Lilian Wagdy; editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Susan Fenton)

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