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Lebanon information minister quits in first govt resignation over blast

  • News Desk

    Agence France-Presse

Beirut, Lebanon   /   Mon, August 10, 2020   /   08:20 am
Lebanon information minister quits in first govt resignation over blast A handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra on July 27, 2020, shows Lebanon's Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad attending a meeting. - Abdel Samad on August 9, quit in the first government resignation since a deadly port blast killed more than 150 people and destroyed swathes of Beirut. (Stringer/various sources/AFP/-)

Lebanon's information minister Manal Abdel Samad on Sunday quit in the first government resignation since a deadly port blast killed more than 150 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, apologizing to the Lebanese public for failing them.

The head of Lebanon's Maronite church meanwhile called on the entire government to step down over the August 4 explosion, a blast widely seen as shocking proof of the rot at the core of the state apparatus.

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

Maronite patriarch Beshara Rai joined the chorus of people pressing Prime Minister Hassan Diab's cabinet to step down over a blast he said could be "described as a crime against humanity."

"It is not enough for a lawmaker to resign here or a minister to resign there," Rai said in a Sunday sermon. 

"It is necessary, out of sensitivity to the feelings of the Lebanese and the immense responsibility required, for the entire government to resign, because it is incapable of moving the country forward."

Rai echoed calls by Diab for early parliamentary polls -- a long-standing demand of a protest movement that began in October, demanding the removal of a political class deemed inept and corrupt.

He also joined world leaders, international organizations and the angry Lebanese public by pressing for an international probe into an explosion authorities say was triggered by a fire in a port warehouse, where a huge shipment of hazardous ammonium nitrate had languished for years.

President Michel Aoun on Friday rejected calls for an international investigation, which he said would "dilute the truth." 

At least six lawmakers have quit since the explosion.

Under increased pressure from the street and foreign partners exasperated by the leadership's inability to enact reforms, Diab's government is fraying at the edges.