Diplomat tapped to be PM vows reforms in crisis-hit Lebanon

Workers repair water tanks and damaged apartments overlooking the site of the Aug. 4 explosion that hit the seaport, in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Workers repair water tanks and damaged apartments overlooking the site of the Aug. 4 explosion that hit the seaport, in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

BEIRUT – Lebanon's prime minister-designate on Monday called for a new government to be formed “in record time,” pledging to speed up the investigation into the massive Beirut explosion and implement reforms after winning the backing of major parties in the crisis-hit country.

Mustapha Adib, Lebanon's ambassador to Germany, spoke to reporters shortly after he was appointed by the president to form a new government, after he secured 90 votes among the legislators in the 128-member parliament.

The breakthrough came hours ahead of French President Emmanuel Macron's arrival for a two day-visit, during which he is expected to press Lebanese officials to formulate a new political pact to lift the country out of its multiple crises. At least 190 people died and 6,000 were injured in the Aug. 4 blast, which devastated the city’s port and caused widespread damage to residential and commercial areas in the capital.

The government resigned less than a week after the blast, which was caused by the ignition of nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored for six years in a port warehouse.

In his first move after being appointed, Adib visited the historic neighborhood of Gemmayzeh, one of the areas hardest-hit by the explosion, and chatted with residents — something which no other Lebanese politician has done.

“There are no words to express this frightening scene,” Adib said. The reaction was mixed, with some chanting “Revolution, revolution!” and demanding to know how he can be an independent prime minister when he was chosen by political parties.

“We want the truth, and if you are not going to work for the truth, then we don’t want any of you,” a man told Adib as the ambassador walked among the people, surrounded by a handful of guards.

Adib said he wanted to form a government in record time so that the investigation into the blast can be faster. He later went into his car and sped off, as some chanted “Adib is one of them!” in reference to the ruling class. The tension reflects the mammoth task awaiting him, as he tries to chart a way out of the crisis.