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Main Lebanon PM candidate withdraws from consideration

A possible candidate for prime minister of Lebanon said Sunday he is withdrawing from consideration for the post, prolonging the country's political crisis.

Samir Khatib's announcement came hours before he was expected to be named as the official candidate for the post following consultations between the president and major parliamentary blocs.

Khatib's statement also comes shortly after his visit to the country's top Sunni religious authority, who told him the community supports resigned former prime minister Saad Hariri for the job. Hariri resigned Oct. 29 amid nationwide protests in which demonstrators accused the political elite of corruption and mismanagement. The protesters had rejected Khatib as a candidate.

Protesters chant slogans during a demonstration to protest sexual harassment and bullying and demanding rights, in front of the government house in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. Scores of women marched through the streets to protest sexual harassment and bullying and demanding rights including the passing of citizenship to children of Lebanese women married to foreigners. (AP PhotoBilal Hussein)

At the time, Hariri said he reached a “dead end” with his political rivals over forming an emergency government to deal with the country's crumbling economy.

Lebanon's national unity government was headed by Hariri, a Sunni Muslim backed by the West, but was dominated by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group and its allies, including the party of President Michel Aoun.

Khatib, a prominent contractor, announced his decision after meeting with Hariri. Hariri had said he backed Khatib for the post.

Under Lebanon's sectarian-based political system, the prime minister comes from the Sunni Muslim community, while the president is chosen from the Maronite Christian community. The parliament speaker is chosen from the ranks of Shiite Muslims.