Lebanon's government resigns following Beirut blast

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Lebanon's Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced the resignation of his government on Monday amid public anger over the massive explosion that devastated the capital Beirut last week.

In a televised address, Mr Diab blamed the blast – which has killed at least 160 people and left 6,000 wounded – on "endemic corruption" and said his government had been the "victim of rumours”.

However, he said that they must give in to the will for change seen among the public, who have taken to the streets over several nights in protest at the government's handling of the disaster.

“We want to open the door for national salvation," he said.

"I declare today the resignation of this government. May God protect Lebanon."

Lebanese anti-government protesters clash with security forces in the area close to the parliament in Beirut. EPA

Demonstrators march past a damaged building holding candles and flashlights honouring the victims. AP

Lebanese anti-government protesters clash with security forces in the area close to the parliament in Beirut. EPA

Demonstrators throw stones during a protest following Tuesday's blast in Beirut's port area, in Beirut. Reuters

Demonstrators try to break a fence during a protest following Tuesday's blast in Beirut's port area. Reuters

Lebanese anti-riot police stand guard atop an armoured vehicle during anti-government protests in central Beirut. AFP

Demonstrators try to break a glass with a metal bar during a protest following Tuesday's blast in Beirut's port area. Reuters

A protester throws stones against the Lebanese riot police. AP

Demonstrators try to break a fence during a protest following Tuesday's blast in Beirut's port area. Reuters

A Lebanese protester beats a drum amid clashes with security forces near an access street to the parliament in central Beirut. AFP

Lebanese protesters, enraged by a deadly explosion blamed on government negligence, clash with police. AFP

Lebanese anti-government protesters clash with security forces in the area close to the parliament in Beirut. EPA

Policemen withdraw as demonstrators throw stones during a protest following Tuesday's blast in Beirut's port area, in Beirut. Reuters

A demonstrator gestures during a protest following Tuesday's blast in Beirut's port area, in Beirut. Reuters

Mr Diab's announcement followed the resignation of his information, environment, justice and health ministers as well as of several members of parliament since the explosion last Tuesday.

On Sunday, in an interview with Britain's ITV News, Mr Diab said the Lebanese people had a “right” to be furious after "decades of unbelievable corruption”.

“I am not afraid of the people’s fury. Absolutely they have a right to be furious, not just because of this,” he said, as pressure mounted on him and his government to resign.

“It is absolutely diabolical what happened; however, they were also furious before that, about three decades of unbelievable corruption ... We are here facing all of these accumulated problems.”

Member of Parliament Alain Aoun confirmed to The National that the government's resignation would not affect the ongoing investigation into the explosion at Beirut's port.

“The government will likely stay as a caretaker. But the investigation is in the hands of the judges and they, the attorney general, are not affected by changes to the government,” Mr Aoun said.

“Maybe the ministerial committee will not survive, but the judges will continue their work. They have already started.”

Tuesday's blast compounded months of difficulties in Lebanon, which was already dealing with an economic collapse that had prompted months of protests. Its strained health infrastructure was also struggling to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Veteran politician and leader of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt reacted to the resignation of the government by saying that it met the "basic demand" of the people after the disaster.

"Today, the demand has been fulfilled and we consider it a great political victory," he said to Sky News.

Over the weekend, public anger spilled out on to the streets, with police using tear gas to try to disperse rock-throwing protesters.

Despite the resignation of Mr Diab and his government, protesters hurled rocks and fireworks at parliament on Monday night, with riot police and military personnel attempting to keep them back.

Lebanon's National News Agency reported that bullets were fired into the air in the northern city of Tripoli to mark the decision.

Updated: August 10, 2020 09:44 PM

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