Sat, 26 Sep 2020

Lebanese Government Resigns Following Beirut Blast

Voice of America
11 Aug 2020, 04:05 GMT+10

Lebanon's government resigned Monday in the aftermath of Tuesday's devastating explosion at Beirut's port and angry public protests that followed, the country's prime minister announced Monday night.

"Today I announce the resignation of this government, may God protect Lebanon," Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in a televised speech.

Diab said that he is taking "a step back" so he can stand with the people "and fight the battle for change alongside them." He did not say when new elections would be held.

He laid the blame for the country's myriad problems at the feet of the country's political elite, who have ruled Lebanon since the end of the civil war nearly 30 years ago. He said they have caused political and economic devastation and brought about last week's tragedy.

The decision comes after several ministers and lawmakers resigned, but calls continued for the entire government to go, including in mass demonstrations Saturday and Sunday.

The country's leaders have been accused of widespread corruption and incompetence that contributed to Tuesday's devastating explosion.

The massive blast, which killed at least 160 people, injured thousands and left more than 250,000 homeless, has been blamed on the detonation of 2,750 metric tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been improperly stored for six years at Beirut Port.

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Move the slider at the center of the image above to see the Beirut port before and after the explosion.

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the voices of the Lebanese people must be heard.

"It is important that a credible and transparent investigation determine the cause of the explosion and bring about the accountability demanded by the Lebanese people," Guterres told a humanitarian briefing on blast. He did not specify if it should be conducted by the Lebanese authorities or an independent international commission.

International solidarity with Lebanon has been strong and immediate.

On Sunday, world leaders pledged nearly $300 million (253 million euros) to help the country - already reeling from political, economic and health crises - to recover from the explosion.

World Powers Pledge Nearly $300 Million in Lebanon Aid in Wake of Beirut Blast However, donors stress transparency in how aid is spent, wary of sending assistance to a government that many Lebanese view as corrupt

The United States has made an initial pledge of $17 million and sent three aircraft with medical supplies.

Rebuilding is expected to cost billions of dollars. Economists have forecast the damage could erase up to 25% of the country's economic output.

U.N. agencies are also on the ground assisting the population. Among their immediate concerns is getting a small part of Beirut Port operational in order to bring in food aid, medical and construction supplies.

The head of the World Food Program said from Beirut that he believes they can get a small area of the port operational within 2-3 weeks in order to bring in grain. The country's silos were destroyed at the port and the country has only about a month's worth of wheat and grain left.

Lebanon imports about 80% of its food supplies.

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