Lebanon's prime minister was set to announce the resignation of his government yesterday, the health minister said, after a devastating explosion in Beirut that has stirred public outrage and spurred a string of ministers to step down.
The Aug. 4 port warehouse detonation of more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate killed at least 163 people, injured over 6,000 and destroyed swathes of the bustling Mediterranean capital, compounding months of political and economic meltdown.
The cabinet, formed in January with the backing of the powerful Iranian-backed Hezbollah group and its allies, met yesterday, with many ministers wanting to resign, according to ministerial and political sources.
Health Minister Hamad Hasan told Reuters that Prime Minister Hassan Diab would soon announce the resignation of the entire cabinet. Diab was set to deliver an address to the nation at 7:30pm local time, his office said.
For many ordinary Lebanese, the explosion was the last straw in a protracted crisis over the collapse of the economy, endemic corruption, waste and dysfunctional governance, and they have taken to the streets demanding root-and-branch change.
The information and environment ministers quit on Sunday as well as several lawmakers, and the justice minister followed them yesterday.
Anti-government protests in the past two days have been the biggest since October, when angry demonstrations spread over an economic crisis rooted in pervasive graft, mismanagement and high-level unaccountability. Protesters accused the political elite of siphoning off state resources for their own benefit.
An emergency international donor conference on Sunday raised pledges worth nearly 253 million euros ($298 million) for immediate humanitarian relief. But foreign countries demand transparency over how the aid is used, wary of writing blank cheques to a government perceived by its own people as deeply corrupt.