© Reuters. Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun speaks during a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Baabda

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Saturday that the central bank’s forensic review was necessary to combat corruption and that he would put it back on track after the withdrawal of the consulting firm it contracted to implement.

Aoun said that “interest-driven barriers” derailed the review, which is a prerequisite for foreign donors to help Lebanon get out of a deep financial crisis that posed the greatest threat to its stability since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Among the multiple crises in Lebanon are increasing poverty, political vacuum, the Coronavirus, and the repercussions of a massive explosion in the Beirut port in August that killed 200 people.

“Our reality today is not promising,” the president said in a televised speech on the occasion of Independence Day, adding that Lebanon was a prisoner of corruption, political planning and foreign dictates.

“If we want to establish a state, we must fight corruption … This begins with imposing criminal financial control,” he said, adding that he would not “back down” on this issue.

The interim finance minister announced on Friday that restructuring consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal had withdrawn from the audit because the central bank had not provided all the information required to carry out the mission, citing banking secrecy.

Lebanon has not yet formed a new government since the blast brought down the last government. Saad Hariri, the Sunni prime minister designated under a sectarian power-sharing deal, is struggling to form a government amid the power wars.

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