Esper on aid to Lebanon after deadly Beirut explosion: US is doing “all we can”

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The US government will do all it can to help the Lebanese people following Tuesday’s massive explosion in a Beirut port that killed more than 100 people and injured thousands, the secretary said on Saturday evening. to Defense Mark Esper.

It’s still unclear whether the deadly explosion was a deliberate attack or an accident, Esper said during a Fox News appearance on “Justice with Judge Jeanine.”

“It’s just devastating and I just cry for people,” Esper said. “I will tell you, the DOJ, the State, the whole agency under the leadership and direction of President Trump, we will provide humanitarian aid to the Lebanese people.

“I already have planes lining up to carry such supplies. We want to do all we can to help the Lebanese people in this hour of need. ”

BEIRUT EXPLOSION LINKED TO RUSSIAN VESSEL STORING AMMONIUM NITRATE LEFT IN PORT, CALLED “FLOATING BOMB”

An unknown number of port officials were under house arrest on Wednesday as part of the Lebanese government’s investigation into the explosion. Public anger has mounted against the Lebanese ruling elite, which was accused of chronic mismanagement and neglect in the port before the disaster.

Beirut’s port and customs office are notorious for their corruption, in a country where various political factions – including Hezbollah, a militant Shia Islamist group – are struggling for control. But the degree to which the corruption could have accounted for the explosion was not clear, Esper said.

“At the end of the day, we still don’t know,” he said. “You know, the first day, as President Trump rightly said, we thought maybe it was an attack. Some of us have speculated that it could have been, for example, a Hezbollah arms shipment that exploded. Maybe a Hezbollah bombing facility. . ”

“Regrettable” media actions

Esper also criticized some in the media, saying they were trying to divide Trump administration officials amid speculation about the explosion.

“I commented that it looked more like an accident. And it’s unfortunate that some in the media … [are] trying to draw divisions within the administration between maybe me and the president and others, ”Esper said. Simply not true. I mean, the point is, it’s a great tragedy. Under the leadership of the president, we will do everything in our power to help the Lebanese people and do what is right. ”

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The secretary also addressed US-China relations in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are not looking for a conflict with China, but we must stand up for what is right. And the president did it under his leadership. Finally, we defend our economic interests, human rights abroad, and preserve our security. interests in the region, ”Esper said. “And as I shared with the Chinese Minister of Defense this morning, we are deeply disturbed by the way China has handled the coronavirus and the devastation it has caused to the world, but to the United States in particular. .

“And that we expect transparency, access and cooperation to make sure that we understand what happened and that we are doing all we can to prevent a similar thing from happening again.” ”

Danielle Wallace of Fox News contributed to this report.

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