News ID: 272654
Published: 0212 GMT August 09, 2020

Lebanon information minister quits in first gov’t resignation after blast

Lebanon information minister quits in first gov’t resignation after blast
REUTERS

Lebanon's Information Minister Manal Abdel-Samad on Sunday stepped down in the first government resignation since a deadly port blast killed at least 160 people and destroyed swathes of the capital.

"After the enormous Beirut catastrophe, I announce my resignation from government," she said in a statement carried by local media, AFP reported.

She said in her resignation letter that change remained elusive” and she regrets failing to fulfill the aspirations of the Lebanese people.

Her resignation comes as about half a dozen lawmakers offered to step aside over government performance. Local media also reported that another minister, and a close advisor to Prime Minister Hassan Diab, was also expected to resign. Diab met with his cabinet reportedly to discuss the resignations Sunday, but there were no comments after the meeting, AP wrote.

Diab said Saturday he would propose early elections to break the impasse that is plunging Lebanon ever deeper into political and economic crisis.

The head of Lebanon's Maronite church meanwhile called on the entire government to step down over the August 4 explosion.

Abdel-Samads resignation came after a night of demonstrations against the government.

While the exact circumstances that led to the blast in a Beirut port warehouse are not yet known, protesters said it could not have happened without the kind of corruption and incompetence that has come to define Lebanon's ruling class.

Hundreds of tons of highly explosive material were stored in the waterfront hangar, and the blast sent a shock wave that killed at least 160 people, wounded nearly 6,000 and defaced the coastline of Beirut — destroying hundreds of buildings.

Protesters enraged by the blast vowed to continue to rally after a night of street clashes in which they stormed several ministries.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday oversaw a UN-backed virtual donors conference in Paris to raise aid for Lebanon, a country already mired in a painful economic crisis.

The world must respond "quickly and effectively" to the disaster, Macron warned, urging international cooperation "to ensure that neither violence nor chaos prevails".

The mood was one of grief and fury in Beirut, a day after many of the dead were laid to rest and when thousands demonstrated in the biggest anti-government rally the country has seen in months.

The army Saturday used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear hundreds of protesters from the central Martyrs' Square.

The street violence left 65 people injured, according to the Red Cross.

Demonstrators temporarily occupied the Foreign Ministry building before being forced out by the army three hours later.

Protesters, some brandishing nooses, also stormed the economy and energy ministries and the Association of Banks before they were pushed back out by soldiers.

Rescuers meanwhile kept digging through the rubble of toppled buildings as hopes slowly faded of finding more survivors from the colossal blast that was felt as far away as Cyprus.

 

 

  

 

   
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