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‘Fight corruption’ – German minister tells Lebanon

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says Lebanon needs a government able to fight corruption and carry out reforms.

Mr. Maas spoke on Wednesday as he toured Beirut port, scene of the devastating blast that has sparked protests and forced the government to resign.

The August 4 explosion at a warehouse storing hundreds of tonnes of ammonium nitrate killed nearly 180 people and injured more than 6,000. It also left around 300,000 people without habitable housing and wrecked swathes of the Mediterranean city.

“It is impossible that things go on as before,” Mr. Maas said. “The international community is ready to invest but needs securities for these investments. It is important to have a government that fights the corruption.

“Many in Europe have a lot of interest for this country. They want to know that there are economic reforms and good governance,” the German minister added.

Monday night’s resignations by Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his cabinet has clearly deepened uncertainty in Lebanon.

Talks between Mr. Diab’s seven-month-long government and the International Monetary Fund for a bailout had already stalled due to internal, fractuous politics.

Analysts say forming a new government could be a daunting task, amid factional rifts and growing public discontent with the country’s ruling class.

On Wednesday, Russia and Saudi Arabia agreed on the importance of creating what they termed a “beneficial external conditions” for the formation of a new Lebanese government.

Although many countries have rushed in large quantities of humanitarian aid, several world governments have, nevertheless, made clear they will not provide funds to help pull Lebanon from economic collapse without action on reforms, graft, waste, mismanagement and negligence.

Meanwhile, some forty people are still missing more than a week after the Beirut explosion. The Lebanese army said on Wednesday that rescue teams pulled another body from the wreckage of a silo in the port.

President Michel Aoun has promised a swift investigation into the incident.

Mr. Aoun’s pledge has come hot on the heels of a Reuters report that the president and prime minister had been warned in July about the store-house of ammonium nitrate.

But in a rebuttal issued on Wednesday, the presidency said Mr. Aoun had instructed appropriate quarters to “do the necessary” as soon as he received a state security report on July 20.

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