US envoy calls for 'transparent, credible' Beirut blast probe



Accompanied by Lebanese army officers, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale and US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea on August 15th tour the site of the Beirut port blast. [Nabil Mounzer/ Pool/AFP]

US envoy David Hale on Saturday (August 15th) called for a "transparent and credible" probe into the devastating August 4th blast at Beirut's port.

"We need to make sure there is a thorough and transparent, credible investigation," Hale said, touring the blast site on the final day of his visit.

"We can never go back to an era in which anything goes at the port or the borders of Lebanon," he said, adding that "every state, every sovereign state, controls its ports and its borders thoroughly".

"I imagine all Lebanese would like... not to have the anything goes atmosphere."

The disaster, which killed 177 people and devastated swathes of Beirut, led to demands at home and abroad for an international investigation.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) personnel were slated to arrive in Lebanon over the weekend at the invitation of Lebanese authorities, Hale said, and would help determine "what led to the circumstances of this explosion".

In a closing statement, Hale laid a portion of the blame on Lebanese authorities, saying it was in part "a symptom of much deeper ails in Lebanon".

"Unfortunately, nearly everyone in authority bears a measure of responsibility" for problems in the country that have "gone on for far too long," he said.

"I am talking about the decades of mismanagement, corruption and the repeated failure of Lebanese leaders to undertake meaningful, sustained reform," he said.

Investigation is under way

Lebanese militia Hizbullah, which dominates parliament with its allies, stands accused of wielding great influence over Beirut's port and border posts.

The explosion reignited claims that Hizbullah, which the US has designated as a terrorist group, stored arms at the blast site.

Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Friday strongly denied the charges.

The FBI personnel are to join other international experts already on the ground, including from France, which has launched its own probe.

Lebanese authorities too have opened an enquiry, despite domestic skepticism over the credibility of a state-led investigation.

Public prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat has filed lawsuits against 21 suspects over the blast, 19 of whom are already in custody.

Judge Fadi Sawan, who was appointed Friday to lead investigations, is to start interrogating suspects next week.

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