Senior foreign officials rush to Lebanon after Beirut explosions, ahead of new govt

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Several senior foreign officials have rushed to Beirut since the deadly Aug. 4 explosions, with top US, French and Iranian officials landing on Thursday.

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale arrived early Thursday, making his first trip to the destroyed streets of Beirut neighborhoods. Hale said that the FBI would participate in the investigations into the cause of the blasts, which have killed nearly 200 people so far and injured more than 6,000.

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Speaking to reporters in the Gemayzeh neighborhood, Hale revealed that the FBI would “soon join Lebanese and international investigators at the invitation of the Lebanese … to help answer questions that I know everyone has” about the explosions.

Hale also said that Lebanon needed to end “dysfunctional governments and empty promises.”

Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced his resignation earlier this week after a number of ministers stepped down, risking his government’s collapse.

The US diplomat will meet with Lebanese officials on Friday to discuss the border dispute between Lebanon and Israel and the need for the quick formation of a transparent government. Hale is also expected to touch on the reconstruction of the Port of Beirut, according to official sources.

French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly also went to Beirut and visited the destroyed port.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif landed in Lebanon late Thursday.

In a phone call with Iran’s president on Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron said that Iran needed to halt its external interference in Lebanon. Macron also said that Tehran needed to support the quick formation of a new government in Lebanon.

Via Hezbollah, Iran exerts significant influence in Lebanon, and the militia has exercised its will in public and state institutions.

Hezbollah and its allies formed Diab’s now-resigned government.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday that the international community had a great in Lebanon’s stability.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visits the destroyed Port of Beirut, Aug. 12, 2020. (Reuters)
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visits the destroyed Port of Beirut, Aug. 12, 2020. (Reuters)

But he said that a government needed to be formed that was able to fight corruption.

Before the explosion, Lebanon already had the third-highest debt-to-GDP ratio, with an estimated $90 billion in public debt.

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