Lebanon Government’s Cabinet Resigns After Beirut Explosion, Minister Says

Blast killed at least 160 people and wounded about 6,000.

Lebanon’s cabinet has resigned over the explosion last week in Beirut that killed at least 160 people and wounded about 6,000, the country’s health minister has said.

According to AP, minister Hamad Hassan spoke with reporters at the end of a Cabinet meeting on Monday, which came after two days of demonstrations over the weekend that saw clashes with security forces firing tear gas at protesters.

“The whole government resigned,” Hamad said.

He added that prime minister Hassan Diab will head to the presidential palace to “hand over the resignation in the name of all the ministers”.

The damage at the site of last week's blast in Beirut's port
The damage at the site of last week’s blast in Beirut’s port area.

The August 4 port warehouse detonation of more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate compounded months of political and economic meltdown.

The cabinet, formed in January with the backing of the powerful Iranian-backed Hezbollah group and its allies, met on Monday, with many ministers wanting to resign, according to ministerial and political sources.

For many ordinary Lebanese, the explosion was the last straw in a protracted crisis over the collapse of the economy, endemic corruption, waste and dysfunctional governance, and they have taken to the streets demanding root-and-branch change.

The information and environment ministers quit on Sunday as well as several lawmakers, and the justice minister followed them out the door on Monday.

Finance minister Ghazi Wazni, a key negotiator with the IMF over a rescue plan to help Lebanon exit a financial crisis, prepared his resignation letter and brought it with him to the cabinet meeting, a source close to him and local media said.

Lebanon’s president had previously said explosive material was stored unsafely for years at the port. He later said the investigation would consider whether the cause was external interference as well as negligence or an accident.

Anti-government protests in the past two days have been the biggest since October, when angry demonstrations spread over an economic crisis rooted in pervasive graft, mismanagement and high-level unaccountability. Protesters accused the political elite of siphoning off state resources for their own benefit.

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