UN chief lays wreath at Beirut port, urges accountability for blast

US Secretary-General Antonio Guterres received 'assurances' that elections will be held on time

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said Lebanon needs proper accountability for the August 2020 Beirut port explosion.

Mr Guterres was speaking on Monday, the second day of a visit aimed at rallying international support for the crisis-hit country.

His comments followed a meeting with Lebanese House Speaker Nabih Berri and a visit to the port, where he laid a wreath at a memorial for the more than 215 people killed when chemicals stored at the port for nearly years exploded.

"I know the suffering ... and the will of the people to have proper accountability and I want to express my solidarity to all the victims of that tragedy," he said.

The UN chief, who arrived on Sunday, also said that he has received assurances from Lebanese leaders that next year's elections would be held on time. He also called on Lebanese leaders to work to address an economic crisis that has left four in five Lebanese people poor.

"Seeing the suffering of the people of Lebanon, Lebanese political leaders do not have the right to be divided and to paralyse the country," he said after meeting President Michel Aoun.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres lays a wreath in tribute to the victims of last year's Beirut port explosion. Reuters

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati's government has not met for more than two months amid a push by parties close to powerful politicians charged in connection with the blast to remove the judge leading an investigation.

In a video message before his visit, Mr Guterres said that he supported the Lebanese people's demands for "truth and justice" over the blast which many blame on corruption and dysfunction by a political elite that has been in power since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.

Mr Berri also called on Mr Guterres to help expedite indirect negotiations with Israel to resolve a dispute over Lebanon's southern maritime border.

The dispute centres on an area seen as a promising for oil and gas exploration but several rounds of talks have made little progress.

Updated: December 20, 2021, 12:45 PM
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