United Nations asks for independent probe into Beirut explosion

Satellite image of Beirut port area on 5 August 2020 after explosion

On Friday, the leader of the Lebanese Islamist political party and militant group Hezbollah denied accusations that it had weapons stored at Beirut port, adding that he supported the government's investigation.

Speaking after a meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Arab League secretary-general Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the body was also ready to assist the investigation into the blast.

"We will be having a conference call on Sunday with President Macron, leaders of Lebanon, and leaders from various other parts of the world", he said. Turkey's vice-president and the country's foreign minister arrived Saturday morning and met Aoun, saying that Ankara was ready to help rebuild Beirut's port and evacuate some of the wounded from Lebanon to Turkey for treatment.

Hedwig Waltmans-Molier, 55, was injured by the explosion as she stood next to her husband, Ambassador Jan Waltmans, in the living room of their house in Beirut, the ministry said. "In addition, we have more than 60 people still missing".

"The number of dead is 154, including 25 who have not yet been identified", the official told AFP.

Many countries have already offered aid, with the USA announcing on Friday that it planned to immediately send $15m (£11.5m) worth of food and medicine.

US President Donald Trump says he will join a conference call to discuss aid to Lebanon.

Lebanon defaulted on its debt earlier this year and the current leadership has so far consistently failed to address the economic emergency and agree on an worldwide rescue package despite intense Western pressure.

Speaking on Friday evening, Aoun said "the explosion has led to the lifting of the isolation".

During a televised speech, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the explosion was an "exceptional event" requiring unity and calm, which also presented an opportunity for Lebanon to come out of its ongoing political and economic crisis.

The UN children's agency UNICEF has said almost 80,000 children are among the 300, 000 people left homeless, including many who have been separated from their families.

Already suffering under an ongoing economic and political crisis, many Lebanese blame government negligence for the explosion, due to the fact that a massive amount of highly hazardous ammonium nitrate had been allowed to sit unchecked for years in a densely populated area of the capital.

"They all must go", Tracy Chamoun said.

The Prime Minister reiterated the UK's long-standing friendship with Lebanon and commitment to stand by the country in its hour of need.



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