Lebanon PM announces resignation over deadly Beirut blasts

Beirut: Lebanon’s prime minister Hassan Diab announced his government’s resignation Monday amid popular outrage over the deadly Beirut port explosion that has reignited angry street protests.

The collapse of his government had looked inevitable after a string of resignations and a cabinet meeting during which several cabinet members made it clear they would also quit.

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Diab’s announcement came even as security forces in central Beirut clashed again with protesters demanding an end to an entrenched political system widely seen as inept, corrupt and dominated by sectarian interests and family dynasties.

“I announce the resignation of the government,” he said at the end of a speech in which he strove to cast himself as an external victim of a corrupt and selfish political leadership.

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According to the health ministry, at least 160 people were killed in Lebanon’s worst peacetime disaster, 6,000 were wounded and about 20 remained missing after the disaster blamed on official negligence.

Six days after the enormous chemical blast wreaked destruction across swathes of the capital and was felt as far away as the island of Cyprus, residents and volunteers were still clearing the debris off the streets.

International rescue teams with sniffer dogs and specialised equipment remained at work at the disaster’s charred “ground zero”, where the search was now for bodies and not survivors.

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

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Diab’s resignation was met with cars honking in the streets and celebratory fire in the northern city of Tripoli but was unlikely to meet the long-term expectations of the Lebanese population.

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 as demanded by the protesters.

The outgoing government is now due to stay on in a caretaker capacity, and the next elections could still be months away.

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