BEIRUT -- Lebanese officials held eleventh-hour negotiations Monday over the formation of a new government for the crisis-hit country, a process that hit snags over the weekend despite a looming deadline to deliver on a promise made to French President Emmanuel Macron.
The French leader has been pressing Lebanese politicians to form a Cabinet made up of independent specialists that can work on enacting urgent changes to extract Lebanon from an economic and financial crisis worsened by the devastating Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut's port.
The small, cash-strapped country is in desperate need of financial assistance, but France and other international powers have refused to provide aid before serious changes are made. The crisis represents the biggest threat to Lebanon since the 15-year civil war that ended in 1990, and is largely blamed on decades of systemic corruption and mismanagement by Lebanon's ruling class.
During Macron's Sept. 1 visit to Lebanon, politicians promised a new government would be formed within two weeks. With one day left before that deadline, Prime Minister-designate Moustapha Adib was expected to present his Cabinet lineup to President Michel Aoun on Monday. But instead, Adib only held further consultations with the president.
Although he could still form a Cabinet, missing the deadline would be an early blow to the premier-designate, who quit his job as Lebanese ambassador to Germany for the new post.
On Monday, the French Foreign Ministry said all Lebanese political forces had endorsed the rapid formation of a government that can implement essential changes.
"It is up to them to translate this commitment into action without delay," it said.
Adib's French-supported efforts to form a government of experts without party loyalists hit snags the past few days, particularly after objections by parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, the powerful head of Lebanon's Shiite Amal party.
Berri, an ally of the Shiite Hezbollah group, is insisting on retaining a hold on the Finance Ministry. The insistence emerged after the U.S. administration slapped sanctions on his top aide last week.
Macron held a phone call with Berri on Saturday, during which the speaker reportedly insisted that the Finance Ministry is traditionally controlled by Shiites in Lebanon, according to his aides.
In a statement issued by his office later, Berri said he objected to the way the Cabinet formation was being undertaken. However, Berri said he would be supportive of any initiative to stabilize the nation.
A government opposed by Lebanon's two main Shiite groups -- both loyal to Iran -- would find it difficult to pass a vote of confidence in parliament.
Adib, after meeting with Aoun on Monday, said he met the president for "further consultations" and "we hope for the best."