Macron to visit Beirut as France pushes reconstruction

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President Emmanuel Macron will visit Lebanon on Thursday, the first world leader to visit Beirut after the port explosion that caused destruction in the capital, as France seeks to push reconstruction in its former colony.Tuesday’s explosion, blamed on an unsecured ammonium nitrate store in the port of Beirut, devastated entire neighborhoods, killed more than 100 people and left up to 300,000 homeless.

It was the latest blow to a country already reeling from an unprecedented economic crisis and political turmoil amid growing exasperation with the powerful elite of Lebanon’s various faith communities.

“I will be going to Beirut tomorrow to bring to the Lebanese people a message of brotherhood and solidarity from the French,” Macron wrote on Twitter. “We will discuss the situation with the political authorities,” he added.

Read also: Explosion in Lebanon: reactions | The world offers its support, its condolences

The president’s office at the Elysee Palace said Macron “will meet with all political players,” including President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

Both sides hope the visit will go more smoothly than a trip last month by senior French diplomat Jean-Yves Le Drian, who berated the Lebanese political elite for being too “passive” in the face of an economic crisis made worse by the COVID-19 epidemic.

The day after this visit, Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti resigned to protest against his government’s lack of crisis management.

France sent three planes to Beirut loaded with rescuers, medical equipment and a mobile clinic.

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