Lebanon president rejects global probe into port blast

Aftermath of a massive explosion is seen in in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, August 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun has rejected any international probe into the catastrophic port blast, that happened in its capital city on Tuesday (July 30).

The president said a missile or negligence could have been responsible for the massive explosion which killed at least 154 people and devastated swathes of the capital.

The revelation that a huge shipment of hazardous ammonium nitrate had languished for years in a warehouse in the heart of the capital served as shocking proof to many Lebanese of the rot at the core of their political system.

The Lebanese President admitted Friday that the “paralysed” system needed to be “reconsidered”.

Michel Aoun set to be elected president of Lebanon
Lebanese President, Michel Aoun

“We are facing changes and reconsidering our system, which is built on consensus, after it was seen to be paralysed and incapable of swiftly executing decisions,” Aoun told reporters.

He pledged “swift justice”, but rejected widespread calls for an international probe, telling a reporter he saw it as an attempt to “dilute the truth”.

“There are two possible scenarios for what happened: it was either negligence or foreign interference through a missile or bomb,” he said, the first time a top Lebanese official raised the possibility that the port had been attacked. 

What ignited the massive shipment of the chemical remains unclear — officials have said work had recently begun on repairs to the warehouse, while others suspected fireworks stored either in the same place or nearby.