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The New Arab Staff

UN denies responsibility for Beirut explosives after accusations UNIFIL 'cleared' their entry

The explosion killed over 170 people [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 August, 2020

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The United Nations has denied it allowed a cargo ship carrying 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate into Beirut Port.
The United Nations denied responsibility for allowing a cargo ship with nearly 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate to enter Beirut Port in 2013, which led to a deadly explosion nearly a decade later.

The UN on Tuesday denied claims made by arrested Customs Chief Badri Daher that it had inspected and cleared the ship.

The claim was made during an interrogation by the judicial investigator into the 4 August Beirut explosion, local paper Al-Akhbar reported, which killed over 180 people, made 300,000 homeless and caused billions of dollars in damages.

The UN reportedly inspected the Rhosus when it entered Lebanese waters seven years ago and found no restricted items on board.

"We cannot comment on media reports of this nature related to ongoing judicial process, but UNIFIL does not board and conduct physical inspections of ships, nor does it have the responsibility to authorise entry into Lebanese ports," Andrea Tenenti, spokesperson for the Maritime Task Force of the UN Peacekeeping Force in south Lebanon told The Daily Star.

"The role of UNIFIL is to hail ships that are approaching Lebanon and refer any suspicious ships to the Lebanese authorities who carry out the inspection independently.

"As such, any media queries in this regard should appropriately be addressed to the Lebanese authorities," he added.

Daher had been questioned by Judge Fadi Sawwan on Monday over the blast, with 25 people charged so far in relation to the explosion.

Those detained include Beirut Port's general manager, Hassan Koraytem, who will be questioned by Sawan on Tuesday.

Former Lebanese Customs Director Shafic Merhi, Port Security Head Mohammad Al-Awf and Port Warehouse Manager Michel Nakhoul will also be interrogated.

Slogging through an investigation

Lebanese authorities proved resistant to calls for an international probe by European and international powers, including French President Emmanuel Macron, and rejected an international enquiry.

US envoy, David Hale called on Saturday for a "transparent and credible" probe into the monster blast at Beirut's port, as FBI investigators headed for Lebanon.

"We need to make sure there is a thorough and transparent, credible investigation," Hale said, while touring the blast site on the final day of a visit to the crisis-hit country.

"We can never go back to an era in which anything goes at the port or the borders of Lebanon."

US FBI investigators arrived in Lebanon over the weekend at the request of Lebanese authorities to assist with the probe, with France already launching its own investigation.

Lebanese authorities also extended until September 18 a state of emergency declared in the aftermath of the blast, which had been set to expire in the coming days.


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