More ministers quit goverment after Beirut blast

Beirut: Lebanon’s Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni, a key negotiator with the IMF over a rescue plan to help Lebanon exit a deep financial crisis, resigned on Monday over last week’s devastating Beirut port blast, local media reported.

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Lebanon’s cabinet faced mounting pressure on Monday to step down after a massive explosion that has ignited anti-government protests and resignations by several ministers, with the justice minister the latest to go.

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The Aug. 4 port warehouse detonation of more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate killed 158 people, injured more than 6,000 and destroyed a swathe of the Mediterranean city, compounding months of political and economic meltdown and prompting furious calls for the entire government to resign.

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The cabinet, formed in January with the backing of the powerful Iranian-backed Hezbollah group and its allies, was due to meet on Monday, with many ministers wanting to resign, ministerial and political sources said.

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The information and environment ministers quit on Sunday as well as several lawmakers. The justice minister resigned on Monday, citing the catastrophic explosion.

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“The entire regime needs to change. It will make no difference if there is a new government,” Joe Haddad, an engineer, told Reuters. “We need quick elections.” Prime Minister Hassan Diab said on Saturday he would request early parliamentary elections.

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Lebanon’s president had previously said explosive material was stored unsafely for years at the port. He later said the investigation would consider whether the cause was external interference as well as negligence or an accident.

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Beirut’s governor said many foreign workers and truck drivers remained missing and were assumed to be among the casualties, complicating efforts to identify the victims.

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Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad submitted her resignation “in response to the public calls for change,” she said in a televised press conference on Sunday. Environment Minister Damianos Kattar also resigned on Sunday, according to Tele-Liban state television. Six lawmakers have resigned since last week.

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