U.N. Chief calls for int’l investigation of Lebanon devastating port blast

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File photo: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited the site of the the massive Beirut Port explosion that killed over 218 people , injured over 7000, left 300, 000 homeless after a huge section of Beirut was destroyed in the blast . Hezbollah and its allies have been for months trying to get Judge Tarek Bitar fired from his position as the lead investigator of the explosion like they did to his predecessor Judge Fadi Sawan . The background shows the grain silos that were destroyed in the blast. . The UN chief called for an International investigation of the explosion that was equivalent to an earthquake measuring 3.3 on the Richter scale., but following the explosion President Michel Aoun and his Hezbollah ally refused to allow any international investigation . Officially none of the Lebanese politicians ever visited the site of the explosion
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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited the site of the the massive Beirut Port explosion that killed over 218 people , injured over 7000, left 300, 000 homeless after a huge section of Beirut was destroyed in the blast . Hezbollah and its allies have been for months trying to get Judge Tarek Bitar fired fired from his position as the lead investigator of the explosion like they did to his predecessor Judge Fadi Sawan . The background shows the grain silos that were destroyed in the blast. . The UN chief called for an International investigation of the explosion that was equivalent to an earthquake measuring 3.3 on the Richter scale., but following the explosion President Michel Aoun and his Hezbollah ally refused to allow any international investigation . Officially none of the Lebanese politicians ever visited the site of the explosion

While on a trip to Lebanon, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an independent investigation into the August 4, 2020, explosion in Beirut, saying the victims’ families deserve the full truth.

Last year’s explosion ripped through the capital after hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse ignited. It killed at least 218 people and injured thousands more.

According to a report from the Human Rights Watch, officials from several government agencies, including the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, were aware that the ammonium nitrate was being stored next to potentially explosive materials for almost six years and did nothing about it.

Judge Tarek Bitar was appointed lead investigator into the Beirut Port blast ( background ) after the removal of his predecessor Judge Fadi Sawwan in February. The background of Bitar’s picture shows the huge silos of Beirut Port that exploded on Aug 4 , 2020. killing hundreds s , injured thousands and left hundreds of thousands homeless after 2,750 Tons of Ammonium Nitrate Exploded . They were stored there for nearly 7 years. , reportedly for use by the Syrian regime in its barrel bombs against the civilians in Syria. Former PM Hassan Diab and president Michel Aoun were informed about the explosive chemical 2 weeks before the explosion. but neither did anything about it . Hezbollah and its allies have been for months trying to get him fired from his position like they did to his predecessor Judge Fadi Sawan . Hezbollah is reportedly concerned over being exposed for its role in acquiring, storing and using the ammonium nitrate that exploded at the port AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

Details such as why so much explosive material was being stored and why officials ignored it are still not known despite the Lebanese government having launched an investigation over a year ago.

The official investigation has stalled with no one prosecuted and politicians not cooperating with interrogation requests, NPR reported. Many potential defendants have been looking to remove lead investigator Judge Tarek Bitar under accusations of unfairness.

Many victims’ families and survivors have asked for a more transparent investigation.

“I have been receiving messages from many victims claiming for the need of truth to be established, for the need of an independent investigation that is able to produce the truth,” Guterres said. “I fully understand their concerns and I hope that the institutions will be able to guarantee that.”

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Sunday the international community has not done enough to support Lebanon, grappling with a dire economic crisis and home to over 1 million Syrian refugees. Above, Guterres lays a wreath at Martyrs’ statue on December 20, 2021, at the damaged site of the massive August 4, 2020, explosion that hit the seaport in Beirut, Lebanon.HASSAN AMMAR/AP PHOTO

Standing under the rain, Guterres, who is visiting Lebanon, laid a wreath at a memorial bearing the names of the victims at the Beirut Port site of the explosion.

Later Monday, Guterres tweeted, urging for an impartial and transparent investigation: “The Lebanese people deserve the truth.” And after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, he reiterated his support for the families’ quest for justice.

The local probe, led by Judge Tarek Bitar, has been facing numerous challenges, including criticism by powerful politicians and lawsuits from defendants who have questioned its fairness.

Disagreements over the judge’s work have paralyzed the government, which has not met since October 12 despite the country’s huge economic, financial and political problems. Lebanon’s powerful militant group Hezbollah and two allied groups have demanded that Bitar be replaced.

Guterres urged Lebanon’s political leaders to come together to overcome the country’s multiple crises, particularly the economic meltdown that has sank the once middle-income nation into poverty.

The U.N. chief arrived in Lebanon on Sunday for a three-day visit. He said he is here to express solidarity with the Lebanese people and urged the international community to offer more financial assistance to the country in need of humanitarian assistance.

NEWSWEEK/AP

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