World leaders pledge $300M to Lebanese 'people' after explosion

By Allen Cone & Darryl Coote
Lebanese security forces keep watch after protests Saturday in Beirut, Lebanon. They demanded that all officials responsible for the Beirut explosion should be hanged. Photo by Wael Hamzeh/EPA-EFE
Lebanese security forces keep watch after protests Saturday in Beirut, Lebanon. They demanded that all officials responsible for the Beirut explosion should be hanged. Photo by Wael Hamzeh/EPA-EFE

Aug. 9 (UPI) -- World government leaders have pledged nearly $300 million in humanitarian assistance, including $17 million from the United States, to be given directly to the people of Lebanon after a blast in Beirut killed more than 150 people and injured 6,000.

The action by the world leaders, led by France and the United Nation, came amid the second day of protests against the government. Four government officials resigned Sunday including Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad and Environment Minister Damianos Kattar.


"I want to apologize to the Lebanese people, whose aspirations we were unable to fulfill due to the difficulty of the challenges facing us," she said in a televised statement from the ministry.

Abdel Samad also said she resigned "in response to the people's demand for change."

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The information minister said she attempted to address the protest last October, "but change remained far." Prime Minister Hassan Diab took over in January.


Katter resigned later Sunday.

Also Sunday, MP Michel Moawad became the seventh member of parliament to resign after Nehma Frem stepped down earlier in the day.

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"Enough is enough," Moawad said in a tweet thread. "I listened to your blood, your tears, your aches and your cries ... and you are the source of all authority."

Last Monday, Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti resigned before the blast, warning Lebanon risked becoming "a failed state."

World leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump, and representatives from international institutions participated in a video conference to discuss aid to the country. French President Emmanuel Macron, who visited Beirut on Thursday, said then he wanted the aid to go directly to Lebanese people and not into "corrupt hands."

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"The Lebanese authorities must now implement political and economic reforms demanded by the Lebanese people and which alone will enable the international community to act effectively alongside Lebanon for reconstruction," Macron said Sunday.

The leaders stipulated the $298 million in aid will be "directly delivered to the Lebanese population." It will be routed through the U.N. and international relief organizations, rather than the Lebanese government.


They also and offered support for an "impartial, credible and independent inquiry" into the tragedy.

Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said in a statement to the conference that they are ready to redouble their efforts for Lebanon but only if its government implements meaningful reforms the public has been asking for.

"We need unity of purpose in Lebanon -- we need all institutions to come together determined to carry out much-needed reforms," she said in the statement.

Commitment to these reforms, she said "will unlock billions of dollars.

"This is the moment for the country's policymakers to act decisively," she said. "We stand ready to help."

After the video conference, the White House issued a statement.

"President Trump reaffirmed that the United States stands ready and willing to continue providing aid to help the people of Lebanon in their recovery," the statement read. "The President agreed with the other leaders to work closely together in international response efforts.

"President Trump also urged the government of Lebanon to conduct a full and transparent investigation, in which the United States stands ready to assist."

Trump also "called for calm in Lebanon and acknowledged the legitimate calls of peaceful protesters for transparency, reform, and accountability. "


The blast Thursday was caused by 2,750 tons of explosive materials that were at the country's main port for six years despite repeated safety warnings.

Twenty people have been arrested after the blast.

On Saturday, anti-government demonstrators in Beirut were able to enter the ministries of foreign affairs, economy and energy as well as the Association of Banks. Ultimately the army evacuated them. Dozens of protesters were injured.

On Sunday, protesters hurled rocks at security forces blocking a road near Lebanon's parliament.

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