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Lebanon debt talks won't last more than 9 months if well-intentioned - minister

BEIRUT, March 8 (Reuters) - Negotiations to restructure Lebanon's foreign currency debt should not last more than nine months if well-intentioned, the economy minister was quoted as saying, after the heavily indebted state declared it could not meet its debt repayments.

"The negotiation process will last for months and if we have good intentions will not go on for more than nine months," Raoul Nehme told broadcaster al-Jadeed in comments published on its website overnight.

Lebanon said on Saturday it could not meet its debt payments, which include a $1.2 billion bond that matures on Monday, setting the heavily indebted state on course for a sovereign default as it grapples with a major financial crisis.

In a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said foreign currency reserves had hit a "critical and dangerous" level and were needed to meet basic needs. He called for "fair" negotiations with lenders to restructure the debt. (Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Mark Potter)