World donors demand change before money to rebuild Beirut

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A protester throw stones against the Lebanese riot police, during anti-government protest following Tuesday's massive explosion which devastated Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Aug. 9. 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT – World leaders and international organizations pledged nearly $300 million in emergency humanitarian aid to Beirut in the wake of the devastating explosion, but warned on Sunday that no money for rebuilding the capital will be made available until Lebanese authorities commit themselves to the political and economic reforms demanded by the people.

Over 30 participants to the international conference offered help for a “credible and independent” investigation into the Aug. 4 Beirut explosion, another key demand of the Lebanese crowds who took to the streets Saturday and Sunday.

In Beirut, two Lebanese Cabinet ministers, including a top aid to the premier, resigned amid signals that the embattled government may be unraveling in the aftermath of the devastating blast that ripped through the capital. The blast killed 160 and wounded 6,000, raising public anger to new levels.

The resignation of Information Minister Manal Abdel-Samad, in which she cited failure to meet the people's aspirations and last week's blast, was followed by a swirl of reports that other ministers were also resigning.

Late Sunday, Environment Minister Demanios Kattar resigned, calling the ruling system “flaccid and sterile.”

He stepped down despite closed-door meetings into the evening and a flurry of phone calls between Prime Minister Hassan Diab and several ministers following Abdel-Samad's announcement. The political haggling had appeared to put off more resignations, and a Cabinet meeting is planned Monday.

If seven of the 20 ministers resign, the Cabinet would effectively have to step down and remain in place as a caretaker government.

Maha Yahya, the director of the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Center, said the discussions clearly point to backroom deals that seek to put together a new government that's acceptable to domestic and international powers, as well as the angered public.