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Lebanon President Michel Aoun asks U.N. for help amid crises, looming blackout

Lebanon President Michel Aoun asks U.N. for help amid crises, looming blackout
Lebanese President Michel Aoun delivers a prerecorded speech Friday at the U.N. General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York City. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 24 (UPI) -- Lebanon President Michel Aoun told the United Nations General Assembly on Friday that his country is facing grave economic challenges caused by corruption, the impact of the Beirut port explosions and the civil war in neighboring Syria.

In a prerecorded message for the General Debate, Aoun said a new government is in place to take on current challenges, but he urged member nations to supply financial aid and other support to help lift Lebanon out of a web of crises.

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Lebanon was already spiraling economically because of rampant corruption and the devaluation of its currency when massive explosions destroyed most of its port on Aug. 4, 2020, killing more than 200 people.

Aoun said the country is headed for a total power blackout, which could occur by the end of the month, due to dwindling fuel reserves.

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"One year on, our lights have yet to come back on in our afflicted capital," Aoun said. "Our only wish is for Beirut's heart to beat again, for the port to be what it once was again -- a port for trade."

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Aoun said that while reconstruction and rehabilitation in Beirut remains a priority, the families of the thousands of people affected by the blast are still asking for justice, that those responsible for the accident are held to account.

"The families of the victims and the injured will not have closure until justice is achieved," he added. "The Lebanese judiciary is currently looking at the causes and circumstances of the explosion. It has already issued indictments and made arrests.

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"We expect the confidential investigation to shed light on the origin of the explosive material, how they entered the port and the people behind that."

Aoun also spoke of bringing an end to the Syrian civil war, which has led Lebanon to take in 1.5 million Syrian refugees. He called the population influx "crushing" and called on international assistance to return them home.

"The blockade on Syria isolated Lebanon, and the conflict there fueled terrorism in our country," he said. "I have raised this issue in all forms, especially here at the United Nations.

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"I have urged the international community to help in a safe return of Syrians, but my appeals fell on deaf ears."

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