Disasters & Accidents

Lebanese politicians surrender to foreign “interference” to solve crisis

By Isaac J. Martun

Beirut, Aug 16 (efe-epa).- Amid internal distrust and divisions, Lebanese politicians are seeing how different actors have interfered in the country’s internal affairs following the resignation of the government after the Beirut Port explosion.

The blast occurred with nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at a port warehouse since 2014 detonated, killing at least 178 and injuring more than 6,000.

On the weekend, French Defense Minister Florence Parly, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Yavad Zarif visited Beirut to offer humanitarian aid.

“Not all interference now in Lebanon is in (the country’s) favor,” politician Mohamed Serhan of the National Block Party told Efe.

“This is not the only problem, but (another is) we ourselves, with our internal disagreements and getting involved in regional axes,” he said referring to the pro-Iran and pro-Sunni axes as well as the desire of some groups to incline towards the west.

However, Lebanese President Michel Aoun told France’s BFMTV last night that “When someone comes and reaches out to help, it is not interference.”

During the interview, Aoun referred to French President Emmanuel Macron, who visited Beirut a couple of days after the blast to show solidarity, to demand reforms and call for “a new political order” in Lebanon.

For his part, Hale called for an end to the “endemic corruption” of the Lebanese political class.

Zarif, meanwhile, called on the international community to help Lebanon without “imposing an order” or “exploiting” the humanitarian tragedy caused by the powerful explosion.

“I am against any foreign interference in Lebanon because unfortunately any foreign country comes for its own interests and agendas … That is why we, the Lebanese people, have to be united,” Paula Yacoubian, the first parliament member to resign after the explosion, told Efe.

For his part Elias Handkach, of the Christian Kataeb party, who resigned from parliament, told Efe that “Unfortunately, the government and the political branch have not had the confidence of the international community or the people” since last October, when anti-government protests broke out.

Now “the culmination of mistrust comes with the explosion as a result of the corruption of the administration … and therefore, we ask for an international investigation, because we do not trust the investigation carried out here either,” he said.

An FBI investigation team is expected to arrive in Beirut shortly to take part in the investigations as requested by the Lebanese authorities.

Aoun himself admitted that the investigation “will not be resolved as quickly as desired.”

The Lebanese leader did not rule anything out, including the hypothesis that a missile may have caused the explosion of the ammonium nitrate, although he did not accuse any party of such a hypothetical attack.

Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic patriarch, Bechara Rai, during his Sunday sermon called for early parliamentary elections and the formation of a new government to address the worst crisis Lebanon has experienced since the end of 1975-1990 civil war.

Hankach also said “early parliamentary elections with international observers are needed” to pave the way for “new faces to emerge who can create the new Lebanon to which we all aspire.”

Besides Hankach, nearly a dozen members of parliament have resigned, but this is not enough to dissolve the parliament.

The next step is for the president to name a candidate to form a government with parliamentary backing, while Hassan Diab’s government continues in its caretaker capacity. EFE-EPA

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