French President Emanuel Macron has warned Iranian President Hassan Rouhani against any interference in Lebanon after the resignation of several government officials following a deadly explosion in the port of Beirut.
The Islamic Republic’s influence in Lebanon is bolstered by its support for the militant group Hezbollah, which Lebanese citizens say is a shadow government controlling President Michel Aoun, who remains in power.
Lebanese activists fear military cracking in case of emergency
Speaking to Rouhani on Wednesday, Macron said major powers in the region should avoid interfering with or escalating tensions in Lebanon as he forms a new government, according to Macron’s office.
The French president was the first international leader on the ground after the Beirut port explosion killed at least 220 people and injured 7,000 more on August 4, leaving much of the city destroyed. His presence contrasted sharply with the relative absence of Lebanese government officials since the incident.
Macron visited the rubble and promised frustrated protesters that aid would not fall into corrupt hands.
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his entire cabinet resigned earlier this week as reports revealed officials had been aware for years of the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in the port of Beirut, which caught fire and set off the deadly explosion.
Macron hopes to negotiate an agreement between political factions opposing Lebanon to rebuild the city and restore the government while coordinating international aid for recovery efforts.
Over the weekend, he chaired a virtual aid conference that raised $ 295 million in pledges.
Macron also urged Russia and Iran – the main power players in the region – to coordinate their aid efforts with the rest of the international community to restore stability.
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Instead, the two countries offered bilateral aid rather than participating in the efforts through the United Nations Security Council.