Lebanon information minister quits in first govt resignation over blast

Lebanon information minister quits in first govt resignation over blast

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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, apologising to the Lebanese public for failing them.

The head of the Maronite Church in Lebanon also called on the entire government to withdraw from the August 4 explosion, which is widely regarded as shocking evidence of the decay of the core of the state apparatus.

Lebanese protesters angered by the explosion vowed to regroup after a whole night of street clashes, and they stormed into 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 responded to Diab’s call for an early parliamentary poll-the long-term demand for the protest movement began in October, and the protest movement called for the removal of the political class deemed incompetent and corrupt.

He also joined world leaders, international organizations and the angry Lebanese public in calling for an international investigation of the explosion. Authorities said the explosion was caused by a fire in a port warehouse, where a large amount of dangerous ammonium nitrate has been stagnant for years.

On Friday, President Michel Aoun rejected a call for an international investigation, which he said would “dilute the facts.”

Since the explosion, at least six parliamentarians have withdrawn.

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.

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