UN chief lays wreath at Beirut port, urges accountability for blast

UN chief lays wreath at Beirut port, urges accountability for blast
2 min read
20 December, 2021
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday he supported the Lebanese peoples demands for truth and accountability into last year's explosion at the Port of Beirut
Guterres has called on Lebanese leaders to work to address an economic crisis [AFP/Getty]

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday Lebanon needed proper accountability for the August 2020 Beirut port explosion on the second day of a visit aimed at rallying international support for the crisis-hit country.

His comments followed a meeting with Lebanese House Speaker Nabih Berri and a visit to the port, where he laid a wreath at a memorial for the more than 215 people killed when chemicals stored at the port for nearly years exploded.

"I know the suffering ... and the will of the people to have proper accountability and I want to express my solidarity to all the victims of that tragedy," he said.

Guterres, who arrived on Sunday, has called on Lebanese leaders to work to address an economic crisis that has left four in five Lebanese poor.

"Seeing the suffering of the people of Lebanon, Lebanese political leaders do not have the right to be divided and paralyse the country," Guterres said after a meeting with President Michel Aoun.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati's government has not met for more than two months amid a push by parties close to powerful politicians charged in connection with the blast to remove the judge leading an investigation.

Guterres said in a video message ahead of his visit that he supported demands of Lebanese for "truth and justice" over the blast.

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Many Lebanese blame the blast on the corruption and dysfunction normalised by a political elite that has been in power since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.

Berri also called on Guterres to help expedite indirect negotiations with Israel to resolve a dispute over Lebanon's southern maritime border.

The dispute centres on an area seen as a promising for oil and gas exploration but several rounds of talks have made little progress. 

(Reuters)