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Lebanese cabinet to meet next week after three-month gap, Al Jadeed TV says

BEIRUT, Jan 17 (Reuters) – Lebanon’s cabinet will hold its first meeting in three months on Jan. 24, a Lebanese television channel reported on Monday, after a gap in which the country’s economic crisis has deepened and efforts to revive talks with the IMF have stalled.

Economy Minister Amin Salam said work on the 2022 budget would be at the top of the agenda when ministers gather next week, Al Jadeed TV reported, after two major political groups ended a boycott that had prevented cabinet sessions.

The cabinet, formed in September, had promised to start work on resolving a deep economic crisis and on reviving talks with the International Monetary Fund. But it has not met since Oct. 12.

Hezbollah and Amal, two powerful groups which back several ministers, had been boycotting the cabinet in a dispute over the conduct of an investigation into a huge explosion at Beirut port in 2020. They announced an end to the boycott on Saturday.

Hezbollah, an Iran-backed group that has a well-armed militia, and Amal, another Muslim Shi’ite group, have sought the removal of a judge who has been overseeing the blast probe.

Lebanon’s economy has been in crisis since 2019 when it finally collapsed under a mountain of debt. Its currency has been in tailspin, plunging to a new low last week, and swathes of the nation have been driven into poverty.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati, whose post is held by a Sunni Muslim under Lebanon’s sectarian political system, has said his government would seek to sign a preliminary agreement for an IMF support program in February.

An IMF spokesperson told Reuters that virtual talks would be held with Lebanese authorities in the last week of January.

Reporting by Nayera Abdallah; Editing by Edmund Blair

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