France, UN host new conference on aid to Lebanon at deadlock

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PARIS (AP) – France and the UN will host a new conference on aid to Beirut next week after the devastating explosion at its port in August, amid a political deadlock and worsening economic crisis in Lebanon, the French presidency announced on Friday.

Thousands of Lebanese are struggling to repair houses damaged by the blast and there is no government initiative to rebuild what was destroyed.

French President Emmanuel Macron and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will co-chair the video conference on December 2, which will also include Lebanese non-governmental groups and other organizations seeking to help, according to Macron’s office.

Almost four months after the explosion forced the Lebanese government to resign, leaders still struggle to form a new government amid persistent political disagreements. The Lebanese army offered a little assistance for the reconstruction of Beirut, but the country’s severe economic crisis worsened further.

Macron visited Beirut twice in the wake of the explosion and promised to help the former French protectorate rebuild. But his initiative and roadmap for a new government to adopt urgent reforms has gone nowhere in political paralysis in Lebanon, and billions of dollars in international aid remain stranded.

The massive explosion killed nearly 200 people and injured more than 6,000 when 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded in the port of Beirut. It also devastated several neighborhoods, destroying thousands of residential, historic and other buildings. It is considered to be one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded.

The cause of the explosion is still not known, but it is widely seen as the culmination of decades of corruption and mismanagement by Lebanon’s ruling class.

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