Alvarez and Marsal to resume Lebanon central bank audit, presidency says

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Lebanon's President Aoun and Lebanon's Finance Minister Khalil meet with a delegation from Alvarez & Marsal at the presidential palace in Baabda

BEIRUT (Reuters) -Restructuring consultancy Alvarez & Marsal will resume its forensic audit of the Lebanese central bank on Thursday, the presidency said, indicating fresh momentum on a condition for Lebanon to secure foreign aid amid its financial meltdown.

The plan for an audit hit a roadblock in November when A&M withdrew, saying it had not received the information it needed from the central bank.

Finance Minister Youssef Khalil signed a new contract with the consultancy in September saying the firm would give the ministry a report within 12 weeks of its team starting the work.

In a statement, President Michel Aoun said he had urged the consultancy in a meeting to finish the audit quickly due to the importance of the work assigned to them.

Parliament had agreed in December to lift banking secrecy for one year, amid much back-and-forth between Lebanese officials including the ministry and the central bank over whether certain information could be disclosed.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati's government, formed last month, has held technical talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in an effort to start negotiations for a programme to rescue Lebanon from its economic meltdown.

Mikati said on Tuesday his cabinet had completed compiling necessary financial data required by the fund. An IMF official said he hoped negotiations for a programme would start before the new year.

(Reporting by Lilian Wagdy; writing by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Andrew Heavens, William Maclean)

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