In crisis-ridden Lebanon, the explosion in Beirut, with more than 150 dead and over 6,000 injured, threatens a new political ordeal. While international donors held a video conference to raise funds for rapid emergency aid, there were signs of further gradual disintegration of the government. Prime Minister Hassan Diab wants to propose a new parliamentary election to the cabinet this Monday. Over the weekend, thousands aired their anger at the political elite during protests, some of which were violent. 250 people were injured and one policeman died.
French President Emmanuel Macron called on the international community for massive support at a virtual meeting organized with the United Nations. Almost 253 million euros in emergency aid came together, 30 million euros of which came from France, reported Élysée circles after the video switch on Sunday. Germany pledged 20 million euros, as Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) said in the evening on ZDF.
Macron: Beirut has been deeply hit
Beirut was hit in the heart, said Macron at the start of the video circuit, in which, according to Paris, representatives from at least 36 states and organizations took part. In addition to UN emergency aid coordinator Mark Lowcock, US President Donald Trump and several European heads of government also took part. Co-host France is still closely linked to Lebanon as a former mandate power.
The EU announced that it would provide an additional 30 million euros for emergency aid through its community budget. The money complements the amount of 33 million euros that had already been pledged immediately after the disaster. Independent of this, Maas had previously announced a German emergency aid package worth ten million euros. The International Monetary Fund also wants to help with a rescue package, but is demanding an agreement on comprehensive reforms, as IMF boss Kristalina Georgieva said at the video switch.
France sets up airlift
According to French information, the hard hit population should be helped directly so that there is no embezzlement. France set up an airlift to bring disaster relief workers and relief supplies into the country. In addition, two French ships, including a warship, were supposed to transport food to Lebanon, among other things. Pope Francis renewed his appeal for “generous help” for those affected by the disaster.
In Lebanon, the resignations of Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad and a second minister on Sunday sparked speculation about possible further resignations. “I apologize to all Lebanese who have not been able to achieve their goals,” Samad said in a televised statement. Environment Minister Damianos Kattar also resigned, as the German press agency learned from government circles. The day before the explosion, Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti had resigned from office. As a justification, he cited the government’s poor performance in trying to lead the country out of its economic and political crisis. Successor Scharbil Wihbi has already been sworn in.
Lebanon: Police officer dies in demonstrations
Thousands of Lebanese people, many of whom lost their trust in the political leadership after the explosion, took to the streets over the weekend. Many protested peacefully against the government, which they blame for the explosion at the port. The anger is great because large amounts of the highly explosive chemical ammonium nitrate have apparently been stored there for years without any safety precautions. This is said to have caused the huge explosion. Up to 300,000 people were left homeless as a result of the damage to their homes. And the hope of finding survivors is dwindling.
Violent clashes broke out between security forces and demonstrators in Beirut on Saturday and Sunday. According to the security forces, a police officer was killed. 250 people were injured, according to the Lebanese Red Cross. Some protesters tried to break the barriers to parliament and threw stones. Others stormed the banking association building or, according to local media reports, broke into government departments. The security forces used tear gas in large quantities. Eyewitnesses also said they heard gunshots.
Prime Minister Diab reacted to the massive pressure on the government with his proposal for a new election. He did not give a possible date for this. The next election would actually be in 2022. But it seems unlikely that Diab’s announcement will allay people’s anger. Many Lebanese complain that elections have so far changed little in terms of the real balance of power in the country. (dpa)