PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday he was working with international partners to create a financial mechanism to ensure important public services can continue to work in Lebanon despite its deep political and economic crisis.
Lebanon is struggling to find enough foreign currency to pay for fuel and other basic imports, its finances crushed by a mountain of debt that has piled up since the country's 1975-1990 civil war.
Macron, who has led international aid efforts to France's former colony, has been trying to increase pressure on Lebanon's squabbling politicians to break months of deadlock on forming a new government and launch reforms to unlock foreign cash.
"We are technically working with several partners in the international community so that at some point, (...) if the absence of government persisted, we could succeed in preserving a system under international constraint, which would then allow the funding of essential activities and support for the Lebanese people," Macron told a news conference.
He said he would continue to defend a roadmap he proposed last September by putting "maximum pressure" on the various parties. The roadmap envisages a government that would take steps to tackle endemic corruption and implement reforms needed to trigger billions of dollars of international aid.
"We remain invested (in Lebanon) but I cannot replace those who hold the system with all its defects and its imbalances. I hope that the spirit of responsibility which has been lacking for several months will start. The people deserve it," he said.
Led by France, technical discussions are under way at European Union level to set up sanctions that could target Lebanese figures who are blocking efforts to break the deadlock.
(Reporting by John Irish, Editing by Gareth Jones and Timothy Heritage)