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Lebanon Govt. Resigns over Beirut Blast, Says Corrupt Ruling Elite is 'People's Tragedy'

Lebanon Govt. Resigns over Beirut Blast, Says Corrupt Ruling Elite is 'People's Tragedy'

Monday, 10 August, 2020 - 09:30
Lebanon's President Michel Aoun heads the first meeting of the new cabinet at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced on Monday the resignation of his government in wake of last week’s catastrophic blast at Beirut port.


In a televised address, he cited “endemic corruption throughout the state” that led to the disaster that killed at least 150 people and wounded thousands.


“The system of corruption is greater than Lebanon,” he added. “Some sides only care about scoring political points,” while disregarding the tragedy on the ground. “The officials should have helped the people, but some sides live in another time and only care about achieving political gains.”


“This political class produced this catastrophe, which was seven years in the making,” Diab said. “They should have been ashamed of themselves.”


“The ruling class has led the country to the edge of collapse,” he continued, stressing that his government tried to work for the people and country, “but a high thorny wall protected by this class lies between us and change.”


“They feared that the success of this government would lead to real change in Lebanon.”


“This ruling class is the Lebanese people’s tragedy. God knows how many scandals they are hiding.”


“I leave it to the people to hold the corrupt and officials responsible for this disaster,” he stressed.


Diab’s resignation followed a flurry of political talks throughout the day. He held an hours-long cabinet session at the Grand Serail before submitting his resignation to President Michel Aoun at the Baabda presidential palace.


According to the health ministry, at least 158 people were killed in the port blast, Lebanon's worst peacetime disaster, 6,000 were wounded and around 20 remained missing.


The Lebanese want heads to roll over the tragedy and are asking how a massive stockpile of volatile ammonium nitrate was left unsecured at the port for years.


The country's top officials have promised a swift and thorough investigation -- but they have stopped short of agreeing to an independent probe led by foreign experts.


Diab’s resignation was preceded by that of Justice Minister Marie Claude Najm on Monday. On Sunday, Environment Minister Damianos Kattar criticized the "sterile regime" when he announced his resignation, hours after Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad became the first to quit.


At least nine MPs have also announced they would step down in protest, as have two senior members of the Beirut municipality.


Diab gave a short televised address on Saturday evening to suggest early elections, but protesters were utterly unconvinced and ransacked several ministries even as he spoke.


During a second evening of protests on Sunday, the rage sparked by the explosion that disfigured Beirut and scarred so many of its residents had not relented, and violent street clashes flared again.


Demonstrators lamented that security forces were using tear gas against blast victims instead of helping them clean their wrecked homes and find a roof.


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