NEWS
11/08/2020 8:15 AM AEST

Lebanon Prime Minister And Government Resign After Beirut Explosion

Blast killed at least 160 people and wounded about 6,000.

Lebanon’s prime minister Hassan Diab has announced he is stepping down in the wake of the massive explosion in Beirut that killed at least 160 people and wounded about 6,000.

Diab announced on Monday the resignation of his entire government amid public uproar against the country’s leaders.

In a televised address, he said he backed calls by ordinary Lebanese for those responsible for “this crime” to be put on trial.

Diab made the announcement after the cabinet, formed in January with the backing of the powerful Iranian-backed Hezbollah group and its allies, met on Monday, with many ministers wanting to resign, according to ministerial and political sources.

Diab said on Saturday he would request early parliamentary elections.

Demonstrations broke out again in central Beirut, with some protesters hurling rocks at security forces guarding an entrance leading to the parliament building, who responded with tear gas.

Mohamed Azakir / reuters
The damage at the site of last week's blast in Beirut's port area.

The August 4 port warehouse detonation of more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate compounded months of political and economic meltdown.

The cabinet, formed in January with the backing of the powerful Iranian-backed Hezbollah group and its allies, met on Monday, with many ministers wanting to resign, according to ministerial and political sources.

For many ordinary Lebanese, the explosion was the last straw in a protracted crisis over the collapse of the economy, endemic corruption, waste and dysfunctional governance, and they have taken to the streets demanding root-and-branch change.

The information and environment ministers quit on Sunday as well as several lawmakers, and the justice minister followed them out the door on Monday.

Finance minister Ghazi Wazni, a key negotiator with the IMF over a rescue plan to help Lebanon exit a financial crisis, prepared his resignation letter and brought it with him to the cabinet meeting, a source close to him and local media said.

 

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Protesters throw back tear gas canisters towards riot policemen during an anti-government protest.

 

Lebanon’s president had previously said explosive material was stored unsafely for years at the port. He later said the investigation would consider whether the cause was external interference as well as negligence or an accident.

Anti-government protests in the past two days have been the biggest since October, when angry demonstrations spread over an economic crisis rooted in pervasive graft, mismanagement and high-level unaccountability. Protesters accused the political elite of siphoning off state resources for their own benefit.

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