Lebanon: World donors seek reforms before pledging $ 300 mn aid

Beirut, Aug. 10:

World leaders and international organizations pledged nearly $ 300 million in emergency humanitarian aid to Beirut in the wake of the devastating explosion, but warned that no money for rebuilding the capital will be made available until Lebanese authorities commit themselves to the political and economic reforms demanded by the people.

Over 30 participants to the international conference on Sunday offered help for a credible and independent investigation into the August 4 Beirut explosion, another key demand of the Lebanese crowds who took to the streets on Saturday and Sunday.

In Beirut, two Lebanese Cabinet ministers, including a top aid to the premier, resigned amid signals that the embattled government may be unraveling in the aftermath of the devastating blast that ripped through the capital. The blast killed 160 and wounded 6,000, raising public anger to new levels.

The resignation of Information Minister Manal Abdel-Samad, in which she cited failure to meet the people’s aspirations and last week’s blast, was followed by a swirl of reports that other ministers were also resigning.

Late Sunday, Environment Minister Demanios Kattar resigned, calling the ruling system flaccid and sterile. He stepped down despite closed-door meetings into the evening and a flurry of phone calls between Prime Minister Hassan Diab and several ministers following Abdel-Samad’s announcement.

The political haggling had appeared to put off more resignations.

If seven of the 20 ministers resign, the Cabinet would effectively have to step down and remain in place as a caretaker government.

Maha Yahya, the director of the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Center, said the discussions clearly point to backroom deals that seek to put together a new government that’s acceptable to domestic and international powers, as well as the angered public.

The current government really has been a lame duck, she said, unable to undertake any reform or show independence in a highly divisive political atmosphere. Even the ministers are deserting the sinking ship.

Meanwhile, four more lawmakers announced Sunday they were resigning from the 128-seat parliament, joining four others who declared it earlier. Parliament is also due to convene later this week.

As the political negotiations took place, protesters converged again on the parliament area Sunday afternoon, setting off another night of violent demonstrations.


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