His country mired in crisis, Lebanese leader calls for help

BEIRUT (AP) – The repercussions of terrorism across the oceans and war in their own neighborhood have left Lebanon and its Middle Eastern neighbors grappling with the aftermath, the Lebanese president said on Friday, calling for international assistance to save his own crisis. country.

As Lebanon is plunged into an unprecedented economic and financial crisis, President Michel Aoun told the meeting of world leaders of the United Nations General Assembly that the country could not recover without the help of the community global.

Lebanon is in the grip of multiple crises that erupted successively from the end of 2019, largely caused by decades of corruption and mismanagement by the country’s ruling class. A currency crash has plunged around three-quarters of the population into poverty over the past year and triggered a brain drain unprecedented since its 1975-90 civil war days.

This was accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic and a massive explosion in the Port of Beirut in August 2020 that killed more than 200 people and destroyed parts of the city. Hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighboring Syria have put additional pressure on the small Mediterranean country.

The international community has refused to offer financial assistance before the Lebanese leaders undertake critical reforms and root out endemic corruption.

Aoun called the recent formation of a new government in Lebanon after more than a year of political paralysis as “a promising step on the road to recovery” and appealed for help from the world.

“We are now looking to the international community to fund vital projects in the public and private sectors to revive the economy and create job opportunities,” he said.

Aoun also said that Lebanon welcomes any international effort to rehabilitate and develop the port of Beirut after the catastrophic explosion of August 4, 2020. The explosion occurred when a fire ignited hundreds of tons of nitrates. of ammonium that had been stored haphazardly for years in a warehouse at the port.

A year later, no one has been held responsible and it is still unclear who brought the ammoniums to the country and why they were stored there for so long in a state of decay. The families of the victims and many other Lebanese have called for an international investigation, accusing the Lebanese authorities of blocking the internal investigation.

“Today, after more than a year, our capital is still dark and (Beirut) is still a disaster city.” said Aoun.

He said he was determined to undertake the necessary reforms by working with the new government led by billionaire businessman Najib Mikati who was formed earlier this month. He also called for help from Western countries to help Lebanon “bear the burden of the displaced” and ensure their safe return to Syria, rejecting their permanent resettlement in Lebanon.

Lebanon has around 6 million inhabitants, including 1 million Syrian refugees. It is the highest proportion of refugees per capita in the world.

Aoun said the Middle East region “paid a high price” in death, destruction and displacement in the war on terror that followed the September 11 attacks in New York 20 years ago. In his pre-recorded speech, Aoun said that nations in the Middle East region are now healing their wounds and “trying to rise up like New York rose before, because the will to live remains stronger than it is.” any terrorism ”.


Zeina Karam is news director for Lebanon, Syria and Iraq at The Associated Press. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/zkaram

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