U.S. envoy: FBI to join Beirut blast probe, Lebanon must end ’empty promises’


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An Israeli seismological expert said on Thursday the explosion was preceded by a series of blasts, the last of which was combustion of fireworks.

FACTIONAL RIFTS

Authorities have estimated losses from the blast at $15 billion, a bill Lebanon cannot pay: it already defaulted on its enormous sovereign debt in March and IMF talks had stalled.

Humanitarian aid has poured in. But foreign countries that once helped have made clear they will not give funds to help Lebanon out of economic collapse without reforms to tackle state corruption and waste.

Hale, the No. 3 U.S. diplomat, said Washington would back any new government that “reflects the will of the people” and enacts reforms. The fallout from the explosion forced the cabinet to resign this week.

But agreement on a new one could be daunting in a country with factional rifts and a sectarian power-sharing system. Public anger has grown at a political elite in power for decades, which many blame for the country’s woes.

The now-caretaker government came to office in January with backing from various political parties, including the heavily armed Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah. Together with its allies, they have a majority of seats in parliament.

The United States classifies Hezbollah, which is backed by Tehran, as terrorist. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif landed in Beirut on Thursday evening, local media said.

Security forces were heavily deployed in Beirut on Thursday, stopping protesters from reaching a legislative session.

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