Lebanon government stands down over blast fallout



An image grab obtained from Lebanon's public television network Télé Liban on August 10th shows Prime Minister Hassan Diab announcing his government's resignation amid popular outrage over the deadly Beirut port explosion. [Télé Liban/AFP]

Lebanon's Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced his government's resignation Monday (August 10th) under a barrage of pressure over the catastrophic Beirut port explosion six days earlier that has reignited angry street protests.

"I announce the resignation of the government," Diab said at the end of a televised speech.

The announcement was met with cars honking in the streets and celebratory fire in the northern city of Tripoli but it was unlikely to meet the people's long-term expectations.

Even as Diab spoke, security forces in central Beirut clashed for a third night with protestors demanding an end to an entrenched political system widely seen as inept, corrupt and dominated by sectarian interests and family dynasties.

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

Before Diab's announcement, four ministers had already decided they could no longer serve a government that has shown little willingness to take the blame or to put state resources at the service of the victims.

At least nine lawmakers have also announced they would quit in protest, as have two senior members of the Beirut municipality.

According to the health ministry, at least 160 people were killed and 6,000 injured in Lebanon's worst peacetime disaster. Another 20 remain missing after the August 4th blast, blamed on official negligence.

Meanwhile, France on Monday urged the speedy formation of a new Lebanese government "that can live up to the expectations of the people".

"The aspirations expressed by the Lebanese in terms of reforms and governance must be heard," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement.

The new government must "meet the main challenges of the country, especially the reconstruction of Beirut and reforms without which the country will plunge into economic, social and political chaos", he said.

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