US calls for credible probe into 'overwhelming' Beirut blast

Reuters
Beirut, Lebanon Published: Aug 16, 2020, 11:44 AM(IST)

David Hale Photograph:( Reuters )

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David Hale said FBI agents would be arriving this weekend, at the invitation of Lebanon, to help investigate what led to the explosion

The United States called on Saturday for a transparent and credible investigation into the massive port blast in Beirut and said the country would only get financial support when Lebanese leaders commit to reforms.

The August 4 blast, which the authorities say was caused by more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been unsafely stored at the port for years, killed 178 people, injured 6,000 and left 300,000 homeless.

“We can never go back to an era in which anything goes at the port or the borders of Lebanon that had to contribute to this situation,” said David Hale, U.S. Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, after visiting the port.

Also watch: Seismic data suggests string of blasts preceded Beirut explosion

He added that FBI agents would be arriving this weekend, at the invitation of Lebanon, to help investigate what led to the explosion.

The blast has fuelled anger at Lebanon’s ruling politicians who were already facing criticism over a financial meltdown that has sunk the currency, demolished the value of savings and left depositors unable to withdraw their money.

Also watch: Lebanon: Beirut to get 50,000 tonnes of food | U.N food aid

“When we see Lebanese leaders committed to real change, change in word and deed, America and its international partners will respond to systemic reforms with sustained financial support,” Hale said. 

“The popular demand for real change could not be clearer.”

President Michel Aoun has said a probe will look into whether the cause of the blast was negligence, an accident or “external interference”.

“They won’t do a thing in an investigation and the whole world knows that,” said painter Mohammed Khodr, as he helped repair a restaurant damaged in the blast.

The heavily armed, Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah, which is listed as a terrorist organisation by the United States, said on Friday it would wait for results of the official Lebanese investigation into the blast.

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