Lebanon Votes In First Election Since Crisis

Former premier Fouad Siniora casts his ballot at a polling station in the southern Lebanese port city of Sidon, on May 15, 2022, during the parliamentary election.

 

 

Lebanon voted Sunday in its first election since multiple crises dragged it to the brink of failed statehood, a major test for new opposition groups bent on removing the ruling elite.

Observers have warned not to expect any seismic shift, with every lever of power firmly in the hands of traditional sectarian parties and an electoral system rigged in their favour.

After an underwhelming campaign stifled by the nation’s all-consuming economic turmoil, queues of voters started forming when polling stations opened at 7:00 am (0400 GMT).

The army deployed across the country to secure a parliamentary election Lebanon’s donors have stressed was a pre-requisite for financial aid crucial to rescue it from bankruptcy.

A new generation of independent candidates and parties are hoping to kindle the change that an unprecedented anti-corruption uprising in 2019 failed to deliver.

“I am with change because we tried this current political class before and now is the time to bring in new faces,” Nayla, a 28-year-old who only gave her first name, said after casting her vote in Beirut.

Independents can hope for more than the lone seat they clinched in 2018 but most of parliament’s 128 seats will remain in the clutches of a political elite blamed for the country’s woes.

The outgoing chamber was dominated by the Iran-backed Shiite movement Hezbollah and its two main allies: the Shiite Amal party of speaker Nabih Berri who has held the job since 1992, and the Christian Free Patriotic Movement of President Michel Aoun.

“It seems almost impossible to imagine Lebanon voting for more of the same — and yet that appears to be the likeliest outcome,” said Sam Heller, an analyst with the Century Foundation.

Lebanon was mutilated by an August 2020 blast at the Beirut port that went down as one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history and deepened one of the most spectacular economic downturns of our time.

– Corruption –
The Lebanese pound has lost 95 percent of its value, people’s savings are blocked in banks, minimum wage won’t buy a tank of petrol and mains electricity comes on only two hours a day.

Despite assurances from the interior ministry that polling stations would be powered on election day, local media reported power cuts in some centres.

Videos shared online showed people sporting their candidate’s colours and shepherding voters into polling booths, continuing a decades-old trend of vote buying.

More than 80 percent of Lebanon’s population is now considered poor by the United Nations, with the most desperate increasingly attempting perilous boat crossings to flee to Europe.

Once described as the Switzerland of the Middle East, Lebanon ranked second-to-last behind Afghanistan in the latest World Happiness Index released in March.

Despite international pressure to reform Lebanese politics, the corruption that sank the country is still rife, including in the electoral process.

At one candidate’s rally in the northern city of Tripoli, some well-wishers disappointed by the lack of cash handouts made off with the plastic chairs.

– Low hopes –
While Sunday’s election might not topple their reviled leadership, some Lebanese see the vote as an important test for the principles that arose during the October 2019 uprising.

For Marianne Vodolian, a spokesperson for families of victims of the cataclysmic August 2020 explosion that disfigured Beirut and killed more than 200 people, voting is a sacred duty.

“We are against the regime that ruled us for 30 years, robbed us and blew us up,” said the 32-year-old.

“The elections are an opportunity to change the system and hold it accountable in a way that makes this country liveable,” Vodolian said.

Top political barons have stalled an investigation into the explosion — two of the main suspects are even running for a seat — and legal proceedings against the Central Bank governor over financial crimes are equally floundering.

One of the most notable changes in the electoral landscape is the absence of former prime minister Saad Hariri, which leaves parts of the Sunni vote up for grabs by new players.

Pope Postpones Trip To Lebanon For Health Reasons

Pope Francis arrives in a wheelchair during the audience to the Participants to the Plenary Assembly of the International Union of Superiors General on May 5, 2022 in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican. / AFP

 

Pope Francis has postponed a trip to Lebanon initially planned for June over health concerns, Lebanon’s tourism minister Walid Nassar said Monday.

Nassar did not elaborate on the “health reasons” behind the postponement, but the pope who has suffered from pain in his knee was seen using a wheelchair for the first time at a public event Thursday.

“Lebanon received a letter from the Vatican officially informing it of the decision to postpone the scheduled visit of the Pope to Lebanon,” Nassar said in a statement published by the official National News Agency.

The pope’s “foreign visits and scheduled appointments… have been postponed for health reasons,” said Nassar, who heads a committee tasked with preparing for the trip.

The Vatican’s press office confirmed the trip would not take place as planned, without providing a reason.

It is still the pope’s “firm intention” to visit Lebanon at a later date, the office added.

The Vatican had never confirmed the visit but the Lebanese presidency in April said the 85-year-old pontiff would visit Lebanon in June.

A Vatican source told AFP the pontiff’s trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan in July would still go ahead.

Knee problems

Francis has been suffering for months from pain in his right knee that forced him to cancel numerous engagements and from presiding over some religious celebrations.

The Vatican has not said officially what the problem is, although sources have told AFP he has chronic arthritis.

The pope himself has also spoken of an injured ligament in his knee.

He told the Italian daily Corriere Della Sera in an interview published last week that he would undergo an “intervention with infiltration”.

And in April, the pontiff told a newspaper in Argentina that he was treating his knee pain by putting ice on it and taking some painkillers.

His visit to Lebanon, following its May 15 parliamentary elections, would have been the third by a pope to the country since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2012, to appeal for peace months after the start of the civil war in neighbouring Syria, while Pope John Paul II came in 1997.

Lebanon, home to one of the largest Christian communities in the Middle East, has been gripped by an unprecedented economic downturn since 2019, with more than 80 percent of the population now living in poverty.

Francis, who has received Lebanon’s president and prime minister in the Vatican in recent months, had previously promised to visit the country and repeatedly expressed concern over its worsening crises.

AFP

Pope Postpones Trip To Lebanon For Health Reasons – Minister

Pope Francis arrives in a wheelchair during the audience to the Participants in the Plenary Assembly of the International Union of Superiors General on May 5, 2022, in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican.
Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

 

 

Pope Francis has postponed a trip to Lebanon initially planned for June over health concerns, Lebanon’s tourism minister Walid Nassar said Monday.

Nassar did not elaborate on the “health reasons” behind the postponement, but the pope who has suffered from pain in his knee was seen using a wheelchair for the first time at a public event on Thursday.

“Lebanon received a letter from the Vatican officially informing it of the decision to postpone the scheduled visit of the Pope to Lebanon,” Nassar said in a statement published by the official National News Agency.

The pope’s “foreign visits and scheduled appointments… have been postponed for health reasons,” said Nassar, who heads a committee tasked with preparing for the trip.

The Vatican had never confirmed the visit but Lebanon’s presidency in April said that the 85-year-old pontiff would visit Lebanon in June.

Francis has been suffering for months from pain in his right knee, which forced him to cancel numerous engagements and from presiding over some religious celebrations.

The Vatican has not said officially what the problem is, although sources have told AFP he has chronic arthritis.

The pope himself has also spoken of an injured ligament in his knee.

He told the Italian daily Corriere Della Sera in an interview published last week that he would undergo an “intervention with infiltration”.

And in April, the pontiff told a newspaper in Argentina that he was treating his knee pain by putting ice on it and taking some painkillers.

His visit to Lebanon, following Lebanon’s May 15 parliamentary elections, would have been the third by a pope to the country since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2012, to appeal for peace months after the start of the civil war in neighbouring Syria, while Pope John Paul II came in 1997.

Lebanon, home to one of the largest Christian communities in the Middle East, has been gripped by an unprecedented economic downturn since 2019, with more than 80 percent of the population now living in poverty.

Francis, who has received Lebanon’s president and prime minister in the Vatican in recent months, had previously promised to visit the country and repeatedly expressed concern over its worsening crises.

Lebanon Reports First Omicron COVID-19 Cases

A Venezuelan migrant is inoculated against COVID-19 with the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine,

 

The Lebanese health ministry said Thursday that it had confirmed the country’s first two cases of the Omicron variant of Covid in passengers tested upon arrival at the airport.

“Two cases detected in airport testing” were confirmed to be of the Omicron variant, Health Minister Firass Abiad told a press conference.

He said both passengers had flown in from the African continent and had been placed in quarantine.

Lebanon reported 1,994 new Covid cases on Wednesday, one of the country’s highest figures for a single day since the start of the pandemic, the minister said.

Abiad voiced concern over a resurgence of the virus he said the crisis-hit country’s ailing health system was even less prepared to handle than during previous waves.

When cases spiked in late 2020, the influx of critical patients had brought Lebanon’s hospitals to breaking point.

A worsening depreciation of the local currency and the mass emigration of health workers has only made the situation worse.

Lebanon has recorded more 683,000 cases of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic two years ago and 8,804 deaths, according to government figures.

Lebanon Judges Resign To Protest Political Interference

Lebanon map.

 

Three Lebanese judges have resigned over interference by politicians in the work of the judiciary, including a probe into last year’s Beirut blast, a judicial source said Thursday.

In a country where political leaders determine judicial appointments, including in top courts, there is little room for the judiciary to work against Lebanon’s ruling elite.

A probe into last year’s monster port explosion has exposed the extent of such interference, with top officials mounting a complex web of court challenges to obstruct the work of lead investigator Tarek Bitar.

READ ALSO: Generation Of Children ‘At Stake’ In Lebanon Crisis, Says UN

On Wednesday three judges, all women, handed in their resignation “to protest…political interference in the work of the judiciary and the undermining of decisions issued by judges and courts,” the judicial source said.

The head of the country’s top court has yet to approve the resignations and has called for the matter to be discussed in a meeting, the source added.

The resignations came after officials filed dozens of lawsuits against Bitar as well as other judges processing requests by lawmakers demanding his removal.

Among those who resigned this week is a judge who turned down a request by an official to remove the investigator.

She was consequently hit with a review questioning the validity of her decision.

“The constant questioning of the judiciary’s decisions is tarnishing its reputation,” the same court official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

While it is the most prominent, the Beirut blast case is not the only one to fall prey to interference by political leaders.

A probe into charges of tax evasion and illicit enrichment brought against central bank chief Riad Salameh has also been paused over a lawsuit filed against lead investigator Jean Tannous.

AFP

Generation Of Children ‘At Stake’ In Lebanon Crisis, Says UN

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019 the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

The UN children’s agency Tuesday called on Lebanon to take urgent action to protect children after it documented a spike in child labour rates and food insecurity since April.

“Urgent action is needed to ensure no child goes hungry, becomes sick, or has to work rather than receive an education,” said Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF representative in Lebanon.

“The staggering magnitude of the crisis must be a wake-up call,” she said, quoted in a statement.

Lebanon is grappling with its worst-ever financial crisis, with nearly 80 percent of the population estimated to be living below the poverty line.

UNICEF in October followed up with the more than 800 families it had surveyed in April and found that since then living conditions had deteriorated dramatically.

“The future of an entire generation of children is at stake,” it said in its latest report titled “Surviving without the basics”.

The survey found 53 percent of families had at least one child who skipped a meal in October 2021, compared with 37 percent in April.

“The proportion of families… who sent children to work rose to 12 percent, from nine percent,” UNICEF added.

It said almost 34 percent of children who required primary health care in October did not receive it, up from 28 percent in April.

“Life is very hard; it is becoming harder every day,” Hanan, a 29-year-old mother, was quoted as saying by UNICEF.

“Today I sent my four children to school without food.

“I have suicidal thoughts and the only thing stopping me from doing this is my children. I feel so bad for them.”

Amal, a 15-year-old who works as a fruit-picker in southern Lebanon, said she had to take up the job to support her family.

“Our parents need the money we earn. What would they do if we stopped working now?” UNICEF quoted her as saying.

“When I look to the future, I see life getting harder.”

‘Hundreds’ Of Fake Lebanese Degrees Sold To Iraqis

Lebanon map.

 

Iraq has summoned its cultural attache in Beirut for an investigation into the alleged sale of “hundreds” of fake Lebanese university degrees to Iraqis, including MPs.

“At least three private Lebanese universities are implicated,” an Iraqi academic source, who requested to remain anonymous, told AFP on Thursday.

Lebanese authorities have also launched an investigation into degrees sold to Iraqis enrolled in remote learning courses, the source said.

Several MPs and high-ranking officials paid to obtain master’s or doctorate degrees, particularly in religious subjects, according to another Iraqi official who also requested anonymity.

The fake degrees, numbering in their hundreds, cost “between $5,000 for a master’s degree and $10,000 for a Ph.D.”, the official added.

Higher education degrees are often a prerequisite for coveted government posts in Iraq.

The cultural attache, Hashem al-Shammari, has been summoned to Baghdad, higher education ministry spokesman Haidar al-Aboudi told AFP.

According to Lebanese media reports, the Islamic University of Lebanon — affiliated with the country’s Supreme Islamic Shia Council — has sacked its president and four department heads over the scandal.

Lebanon has 36 private universities, including prestigious institutions such as the American University of Beirut.

It also has many institutions with religious affiliations authorised by the government after Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war.

AFP

Fire Breaks Out At Lebanon Fuel Storage Facilities

Smoke billows from a huge fire in one of the tanks at the Zahrani oil facility in southern Lebanon on October 11, 2021,

 

Firefighters in Lebanon Monday battled to contain a fire at key fuel storage facilities, AFP correspondents and the National News Agency said, sparking alarm as the country grapples with dire hydrocarbon shortages.

The fire broke out at around 8.00am (0500 GMT) in a tank containing petrol belonging to the army at the Zahrani facilities some 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of Beirut, the National News Agency and local media said.

There was no immediate report of casualties.

A judicial source said an expert had been tasked with investigating the cause of the fire, but had been unable to approach the tank as the blaze still raged.

An AFP photographer saw flames lick up above the storage tank on fire, and huge plumes of dark smoke billowing into the sky.

Firemen worked to cool down the nearby tanks to prevent the fire from spreading.

Smoke billows from a huge fire in one of the tanks at the Zahrani oil facility in southern Lebanon on October 11, 2021, sparking alarm as the country grapples with dire hydrocarbon shortages.

 

The army cordoned off the area, cutting off roads leading to the facilities as well as the main highway linking Beirut to the country’s south, the photographer said.

– ‘Loud bang’ –
A worker in a plantation near the facilities told AFP he had heard a loud bang before the fire broke out.

The Zahrani facilities also include the power plant of the same name, and provide 15 percent of the country’s fuel oil.

The Mediterranean nation is battling one of the planet’s worst economic crises since the 1850s, and has in recent months struggled to import enough fuel oil for its power plants.

READ ALSO: Thousands Evacuated As Floods Hit Northern China

In recent months, Lebanese have only received one or two hours of state electricity a day.

The fire comes after the electricity grid went completely offline on Saturday.

That outage came after two key power plants, including the one in Zahrani, ran out of fuel.

By Sunday limited supply was back after the army provided gas oil.

Most Lebanese saw no major change to their daily lives during the blackout, as those who can afford it have already subscribed to private generators to keep the lights on during the almost round-the-clock power cuts.

Petrol has also been in short supply, forcing motorists to queue for hours outside gas stations to fill up their tank.

Lebanon In Blackout As Power Stations Run Out Of Fuel

This file photo taken on July 10, 2021, shows the Deir Ammar power station in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. Lebanon was plunged into a total blackout today after two main power stations went offline because they ran out of fuel, the state electricity corporation said. Ibrahim CHALHOUB / AFP

 

Lebanon was plunged into a total blackout Saturday after two main power stations went offline because they ran out of fuel, the state electricity corporation said.

The Mediterranean country is battling one of the planet’s worst economic crises since the 1850s, and has in recent months struggled to import enough fuel oil for its power plants.

State electricity in most places is barely available for an hour a day amid rolling power cuts, while the fuel needed to power private back-up generators is also in short supply.

“After the Deir Ammar power station was forced to stop producing power yesterday morning (Friday) due its gasoil reserves running out, the Zahrani plant also stopped this afternoon for the same reason,” Electricite du Liban said in a statement.

This led to the network’s “complete collapse without any possibility of restoring it for the time being”, it said.

READ ALSO: Afghans Flock To Iranian Border, But Few Can Cross

In this file photo taken on June 23, 2021, a technician controls an electric switch board connecting homes to electricity generators in a suburb of Lebanon’s capital Beirut.  Joseph EID / AFP

 

It was the second such complete outage reported by EDL since the start of the month, after a similar incident last Saturday.

A source at the energy ministry told AFP that all was being done “to find a way out of the problem”.

EDL said that a fuel oil shipment was expected to arrive on Saturday evening, and was expected to unload at the beginning of next week.

Restoring electricity is one of the many tough tasks facing Lebanon’s new government, formed last month after 13 months of political wrangling.

Several measures have been launched in a desperate bid to keep the lights on.

Lebanon has reached an agreement towards bringing Jordanian electricity and Egyptian gas into the country via war-torn Syria, while Shiite movement Hezbollah has separately started hydrocarbon deliveries from Iran.

This file photo taken on April 3, 2021, shows a partial view of the damaged Lebanese Electricity Company (EDL) headquarters in the capital Beirut. Anwar AMRO / AFP

 

The state is also bringing in some fuel oil for power stations in exchange for medical services under a swap deal with Iraq.

The international community has long demanded a complete overhaul of Lebanon’s loss-making electricity sector, which has cost the government more than $40 billion since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.

AFP

Lebanon Delegation In First Official Syria Visit In 10 Years

A Lebanese flag waves during a remembrance ceremony at the port of Lebanon’s capital Beirut on August 4, 2021, on the first anniversary of the blast that ravaged the port and the city. (Photo by PATRICK BAZ / AFP)

 

 

Lebanese officials are set to visit Damascus Saturday to discuss plans to import gas through wartorn Syria’s territory in what would mark the first official diplomatic visit during the 10-year-old conflict.

The delegation includes Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni, Energy Minister Raymond Ghajar, General Security agency chief Abbas Ibrahim and Zeina Akar, who holds the posts of defence minister, foreign minister and deputy premier, Syria’s information ministry said in an invite sent to journalists.

They will be greeted at the Syrian side of the border at 10:30am (0730 GMT) by Syrian foreign minister Faisal Mekdad, the information ministry added.

A source at Lebanon’s energy ministry said the two sides will discuss plans to import natural gas via Jordan and Syria to ease Lebanon’s energy crisis.

The aim is to revive a 2009 agreement that allowed Lebanon to import gas from Egypt through Syria, the source said.

Lebanon has maintained diplomatic ties with Syria but it adopted a so-called policy of dissociation from the conflict since it started in 2011, which put a dampener on official dealings.

Lebanese security officials and politicians have made several visits to Syria in recent years, but almost exclusively in a personal capacity or on behalf of political parties that support President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

They include representatives of the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah movement which has been battling alongside Assad’s forces in Syria since the early stages of the war.

Last November, a small Lebanese delegation participated in a Russian-sponsored conference in Damascus that discussed the return of Syrian refugees.

The upcoming visit comes after the Lebanese presidency last month said that Washington has agreed to help Lebanon secure electricity and natural gas from Jordan and Egypt through Syrian territory.

This implies that the US is willing to waive Western sanctions which prohibit any official transactions with the Syrian government and which have hampered previous attempts by Lebanon to source gas from Egypt.

Lebanon, a country of more than six million people, is grappling with an economic crisis branded by the World Bank as one of the planet’s worst in modern times.

The central bank is struggling to afford basic imports, including fuel, which has caused shortages and prolonged power cuts that now last as long as 22 hours per day.

Lebanon Factory Explosion Kills Four

Lebanon map.

 

A factory explosion in the Lebanese capital on Monday killed four people, the official National News Agency reported.

The blast happened inside a factory in the Burj al-Barajneh area in Beirut’s southern suburbs, the NNA said.

It did not specify the cause of the blast, but local media said a water heater had exploded.

Local television stations broadcast footage showing damage to vehicles parked outside the factory, and a video circulating on social media appeared to show three bodies on the building’s blood-soaked floor.

AFP could not independently verify the authenticity of the footage.

Anger In Lebanon After Fuel Tank Explosion Kills 28

Smoke billows from the reported home of the lot owner, where the exploded fuel tank was placed, in the village of Tlel in Lebanon’s northern region of Akkar on August 15, 2021. – At least 20 people were killed and nearly 80 others injured when a fuel tank exploded in Lebanon’s northern region of Akkar, the Red Cross and state media said. (Photo by Ghassan SWEIDAN / AFP)

 

A fuel tank explosion in Lebanon killed 28 people and injured 80 on Sunday as a crowd clamoured for petrol, authorities and medics said, the latest catastrophe to spark outrage in the crisis-hit country.

The tragedy in the remote north overwhelmed medical facilities and heaped new misery on a nation already beset by an economic crisis and severe fuel shortages that have crippled hospitals and caused long power cuts.

It also revived bitter memories of a massive blast at Beirut port last August that killed more than 200 people and destroyed swathes of the capital.

The health ministry said the explosion in Al-Tleil village in the Akkar region killed 28 people and wounded 80.

Caretaker premier Hassan Diab’s office declared a national day of mourning for Monday.

Anger boiled over as protesters attacked the Beirut home of premier-designate Najib Mikati to demand his resignation, with rocks thrown and clashes with anti-riot forces, the official National News Agency (NNA) reported.

The military said a fuel tank that “had been confiscated by the army to distribute to citizens” exploded just before 2:00 am (2300 GMT) on Sunday.

Two soldiers died, 11 were critically injured and four are missing, it added.

The military began raiding petrol stations Saturday to curb hoarding after the central bank scrapped fuel subsidies.

The NNA said the blast followed scuffles as people crowded to get petrol.

Hospitals in Akkar, one of Lebanon’s poorest regions, and in the northern port city of Tripoli said they had to turn away many injured because they were ill-equipped to treat severe burns.

– ‘Don’t leave us!’ –

“The corpses are so charred that we can’t identify them,” employee Yassine Metlej at an Akkar hospital told AFP.

A security source said that DNA testing to identify victims had begun.

AFP correspondents at several hospitals saw remains covered in white shrouds.

At Tripoli’s Al-Salam hospital, emergency rooms quickly filled.

“Don’t leave us!” cried one mother beside her burned son as a man wept and prayed for his own son to be saved.

Akkar residents torched an empty house thought to belong to the owner of the land where the explosion took place, the NNA reported.

An army tweet said the owner of the land was later arrested.

Health Minister Hamad Hassan said he was in contact with countries including Turkey, Kuwait and Jordan to evacuate serious cases abroad.

Ismail al-Sheikh, 23, burned on his arms and legs, was driven by his sister Marwa to Beirut’s Geitawi hospital, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) away.

“We were informed that the army was distributing gasoline… so people flocked to fill it in plastic containers,” Marwa told AFP.

She said some witnesses said a lighter sparked the blast; others claimed shots were fired.

The explosion was widely seen as a direct consequence of official negligence that had pushed the country deeper into free fall.

“The dead are victims of a careless state,” Marwa told AFP.

– Political wrangling –

Sawsan Abdullah burst into tears at Geitawi hospital when a doctor told her that her soldier son was in critical condition.

“He’s my only son!” Abdullah yelled, falling to the floor.

Lebanon, hit by a financial crisis, has been grappling with soaring poverty, a plummeting currency and dire fuel shortages.

The central bank this week said it could not afford to fund fuel subsidies because of dwindling foreign reserves, and accused importers of hoarding fuel to sell at higher prices on the black market or in Syria.

Fuel shortages have left many with just two hours of electricity a day.

The American University of Beirut Medical Centre, Lebanon’s top private hospital, had said it would close by Monday morning if it did not secure diesel to power generators, risking hundreds of lives.

President Michel Aoun ordered a probe into the blast and chaired an emergency defence council meeting, his office said.

It agreed to provide hospitals with the diesel to power generators, said a statement.

The council also called on the government to task security forces with monitoring the storage and distribution of fuel to prevent further incidents.

Sunday’s blast comes less than two weeks after Lebanon marked the first anniversary of the Beirut port explosion.

Despite the economic crisis, political wrangling has delayed the formation of a new government after the last cabinet resigned in the wake of that blast.

Vital international aid pledges remain contingent on a new government being formed to spearhead reforms, and on talks restarting with the International Monetary Fund.

Russia called for a “thorough investigation” into Sunday’s blast and Jordan urged a “comprehensive plan” for Lebanon.

AFP