FBI to join Beirut explosion investigation

Cheryl Sanders
August 14, 2020

Lebanon's parliament on Thursday gave the green light to impose a two-week state of emergency amid ongoing street protests.

The FBI will lend its expertise to the investigators probing the explosion that killed at least 172 people in Beirut last week, US Undersecretary for Political Affairs David Hale said today in the Lebanese capital.

Parliament speaker Nabih Berri called on authorities "to speed up the process of forming a cabinet" able to spearhead reforms. It then moved to discuss the resignation of almost a dozen lawmakers last week to protest the government's handling of the blast.

Dozens of demonstrators shouted as lawmakers arrived at parliament to ratify the emergency measure, but protesters, outnumbered by security forces, failed to block the MPs' cars. French Defense Minister Florence Parly is also expected to attend. "Leave!" demanded one social media post, calling for more street protests.

An AFP investigation found that up until the day before the deadly blast, officials had exchanged warnings over the cargo, but did nothing despite experts' fears it could cause a major conflagration.

The state of emergency approved by parliament allows the army to close down assembly points and prohibit gatherings deemed threats to national security.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Thursday urged Brazil to assist Lebanon's reconstruction following the Beirut explosions, including providing construction materials.

He said the state of emergency's only justification is to extend the power of the state and security agencies and "control the opposition".

The explosion has also renewed calls by Lebanon's worldwide partners for overdue reforms to shore up the deeply indebted economy.

Hale will also underscore "America's willingness to support any government that reflects the will of the people and is genuinely committed to and acting upon such a reform agenda".

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