BAABDA, Lebanon: Lebanon's President Michel Aoun (right) meeting with Qatar's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani at the presidential palace in Baabda yesterday.-AFP

BEIRUT: Qatar's foreign minister yesterday said his country was ready to help kick-start Lebanon's flailing economy, but only if its deeply divided political class agreed on a new government. "Under our policy, we only provide financial help through economic projects... that will make a difference to the country's economy," Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said during a visit to Beirut. But "this demands there be an independent government to work with," he said at a press conference after meeting Lebanon's president.

"As soon as a government is formed, Qatar will be ready to study all the options" and only then discuss "a comprehensive economic program to support Lebanon", he said. Lebanon is locked in its worst economic crisis in decades and desperately needs international aid, but donors have conditioned financial help on an independent cabinet enacting sweeping reforms.

The country's politicians have failed to agree on a new government since the previous cabinet stepped down after a monster August 4 blast at the Beirut port that killed more than 200 people and ravaged large parts of the city. Two visits to the country by French President Emmanuel Macron have failed to bring the various sides together.

Sunni politician Saad Hariri, who made a comeback as premier-designate in October after stepping down under street pressure almost a year earlier, has struggled to put together a line-up to suit all sides. Hariri and President Michel Aoun have accused each other of stymying the process.

Qatar has maintained good ties with all sides of the multi-confessional country's political factions over the years, hosting them in Doha in 2008 to ink a deal after tensions came to a boil in the Mediterranean country. The agreement followed clashes in May that year between gunmen led by the Shiite Hezbollah group and pro-government forces, with the former briefly seizing Sunni areas of west Beirut. But Doha's role had declined in recent years amid tensions between Qatar and Gulf countries, led by Saudi Arabia. - AFP