BEIRUT, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Lebanon's parliament on Thursday approved the first state budget in 12 years, a vital step towards reforming the fragile economy and preventing rising debt spinning out of control.
Successive governments have failed to pass annual budgets due to a string of political crises since the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.
The budget passed after three long days of discussion by 61 votes for and four against. Eight members of parliament abstained.
Passing a budget was a priority for the government of Rafik's son, Saad al-Hariri, which took office in January.
A main obstacle to passing the 2017 and previous budgets has been demands from some politicians that an audit of extra-budgetary spending from previous years be carried out.
But on Wednesday parliament approved a law allowing the budget to be passed before such an audit is completed and giving the minister of finance up to a year to carry it out. (Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Alison Williams)