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The New Arab Staff

Lebanon PM Diab to call for early polls after deadly blast

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Saturday said he would propose early elections [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 August, 2020

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Hassan Diab said he would propose early polls to cabinet on Monday.
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Saturday said he would propose early elections to break the impasse that is plunging the country deeper into political and economic crisis every day.

"We can't exit the country's structural crisis without holding early parliamentary elections," Diab said in a televised address, adding that he would propose early polls to cabinet on Monday.

His announcement came as thousands of demonstrators descended on the city centre to vent their fury at politicians they blame for Tuesday's explosion, which levelled Beirut port and killed 158 people. 

Demonstrators marched through streets ravaged by the blast, gathering in the central Martyrs' Square, where a truck was on fire, as their grief gave way to anger.

As security forces fired tear gas to disperse strone-throwing demonstrators who tried to push their way toward parliament, a group led by retired Lebanese army officers stormed the foreign ministry and declared it the "headquarters of the revolution".

"We are taking over the foreign ministry as a seat of the revolution," Sami Rammah, a retired officer, announced by loudspeaker from the ministry's front steps.

"We call on all the anguished Lebanese people to take to the streets to demand the prosecution of all the corrupt," appealing to the international community to boycott the government.

The Lebanese Red Cross said it had taken 55 people from the protest to nearby hospitals and treated another 117 at the scene, without specifying who they were.

For the fourth day running, Beirut woke to the sound of broken glass being swept on the streets, its inhabitants taking stock after one of the biggest blasts of its kind in recent history.

A fire at the port on Tuesday ignited a stock of ammonium nitrate, triggering an explosion that was felt as far away as Cyprus and destroyed entire neighbourhoods.

It was widely perceived as a direct consequence of corruption and incompetence, perhaps the most egregious case of callousness on the part of a ruling elite that was already reviled.

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