BEIRUT: Lebanon's highest Sunni authority Sunday threw its support behind Saad Hariri as the next prime minister, leading to Samir Khatib later withdrawing his candidacy.
Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian informed Samir Khatib of the decision after the two met at Dar al-Fatwa on Sunday.
“The mufti informed me that he is a supporter of Saad Hariri ... I will go to [Hariri’s Downtown Beirut residence] to inform him because he is the one who named me,” Khatib said following his meeting with Derian.
Khatib, a prominent contractor, was expected to be designated on Monday. President Michel Aoun called for binding parliamentary consultations to take place Monday.
After meeting with Hariri later, Khatib officially withdrew his candidacy.
Derian told Khatib that he supported "Hariri, who is exerting efforts to advance Lebanon." The grand mufti said he supports Hariri's Arab and international role.
Hariri stepped down as prime minister in October, days after nationwide anti-government protests broke out.
Shortly after, Hariri then withdrew his candidacy for the premiership after he said he would only head a technocratic government. This was rejected by Hezbollah, Free Patriotic Movement and Amal Movement.
Khatib's name emerged as a favorite and Hariri previously said that he supported Khatib to be his successor.
Khatib is an executive vice president of engineering company Khatib & Alami, according to the firm’s website. He met with Hariri more than once, as well as with officials from other parties in a bid to enlist their support for the premiership.