French President Emmanuel Macron’s statements during his visit to Lebanon in the wake of the deadly Beirut explosion are an “interference” in Lebanese internal affairs, an Iranian official said on Friday.
“Macron’s speech is an interference in Lebanese internal affairs, increasing the suffering of Lebanon’s people. Macron must apologize to the Lebanese nation,” said Mohsen Rezaei, the secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, a powerful state body and a former the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).
“Instead of focusing all of his attention on finding out what led to the explosion, Macron is pushing for political change and an explosion of the stability in Lebanon,” Rezaei added.
Lebanon, a country already reeling from an unprecedented economic crisis, and a surge in coronavirus infections, was struck by the massive explosion at the Port of Beirut on Tuesday which killed at least 154 people and injured more than 5,000.
Macron arrived in Lebanon on Thursday and visited sites of the wreckage caused by the blast where he was swarmed by Lebanese people asking for his help and demanding that whatever aid France sends not be given to the government for fear of it being stolen by corrupt officials.
He reassured angry citizens that no blank cheques will be given to its leaders unless they enact reforms and end rife corruption. “I guarantee you, this (reconstruction) aid will not go to corrupt hands,” Macron told the throngs who greeted him.
Watch: During French President Emmanuel Macron's visit to Lebanon after the massive explosion, he tells a woman not to worry after she urges Macron not to give money to the Lebanese government. #BeirutExplosion #Lebanon https://t.co/tiKzo9PxE2 pic.twitter.com/fPBIGWi1tP— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) August 6, 2020
At the end of his visit, Macron called for an international inquiry into the explosion, saying it was an urgent signal to carry out anti-corruption reforms demanded by a furious population.
“If reforms are not carried out, Lebanon will continue to sink,” Macron said. “What is also needed here is political change. This explosion should be the start of a new era.”
Watch: French President Emmanuel Macron tells Lebanese crowds in downtown #Beirut that he will pitch a 'new political deal' to #Lebanon's leadership.#BeirutExplosionhttps://t.co/tiKzo9PxE2 pic.twitter.com/HlVGh0YnGT— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) August 6, 2020
Iran has a long history of arming and financially supporting its network of proxies – Shia militias across the Middle East – to further its influence in the region. Most notably, Tehran backs Hezbollah, a Shia militia in Lebanon which has a powerful grip on the Lebanese government.
Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah strongly denied on Friday claims that his group had stored arms at the Port of Beirut.
"I categorically deny" such rumors, Nasrallah said in a televised speech. "We have nothing in the port: not an arms depot, nor a missile depot nor missiles nor rifles nor bombs nor bullets nor ammonium nitrate," he added.
- With Reuters, AFP