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Lebanon PM Hassan Diab sues American University of Beirut for over $1m

Premier claims that he did not resign from his position at AUB when he took office and is demanding compensation
The American University of Beirut has been forced to lay off close to 25 percent of its employees (AFP)

Lebanon Prime Minister Hassan Diab is suing the cash-strapped American University of Beirut (AUB) for over $1m, according to reports in the Gulf media.

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Before becoming prime minister in January, Diab was an engineering professor at AUB and served as its vice president for regional external programmes.

Two senior AUB officials told Saudi Arabia's Al Arabiya English that Diab is claiming that he did not resign from his position and is asking for retirement funds and severance pay for his contract that expires in 2025. 

Al Arabiya reported that two other sources with knowledge of the matter said Diab is also seeking compensation for delays to his payment, and is asking for more than $1m in the lawsuit.

Shortly after Diab was appointed as premier, he reportedly failed to respond to AUB as to whether he wanted to be placed on leave without pay or resign from his vice president role.

Under AUB policies, a member of staff cannot hold a full-time faculty position while serving in office, although the university offers an option of one-year unpaid leave, which can be extended for two years.

Diab reportedly continued to be paid his salary until his government received a vote of confidence from Lebanon’s parliament in February, despite not carrying out his duties at the university.

'Selfish self-interest'

Lebanon is suffering an acute financial crisis and hard currency liquidity crunch, compounded by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Lebanese pound has lost some 80 percent of its value since October, when the long-brewing crisis came to a head, sending prices soaring.

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During a meeting with AUB's Board of Trustees before his government was formed, Diab also made an oral request that his compensation be transferred outside of Lebanon in US dollars, one source who was briefed on the meeting told Qatar's Al Jazeera English.

Depositors in Lebanese banks, where about three-quarters of deposits were in dollars before the country's economic crisis took hold, are facing severe restrictions over US dollar withdrawals and transfers abroad.

"We thought he was coming in to ask for something in the public interest - to arrange a meeting with an official or seek input on those he was considering [for cabinet positions]," the source told Al Jazeera.
 
"It turned out to be completely out of selfish self-interest."

Diab's lawsuit comes after AUB announced in May that it was "facing perhaps its greatest crisis since the university's foundation in 1866".

The university has been forced to lay off close to 25 percent of its employees.

Diab's office did not immediately respond to Al Arabiya or Al Jazeera's requests for comment.