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Beirut explosion: Macron says Lebanon’s leaders need to hear ‘home truths’ during visit

French President Emmanuel Macron said he would propose a “new pact” to Lebanon’s political leaders as he visited the capital Beirut in the aftermath of Tuesday’s devastating explosion.

After landing in the capital, Macron said France’s solidarity with the Lebanese people was unconditional, but said he wanted to tell some “home truths” to political figures.

“Beyond the blast, we know the crisis here is serious, it involves the historic responsibility of leaders in place,” Macron told reporters.

“We can’t do without telling each other some home truths,” he added. “If reforms are not carried out, Lebanon will continue to sink.”

He mentioned reforms of the energy sector, public tenders and the fight against corruption.

Speaking later to a crowd during a walkabout in a one of the neighbourhoods obliterated by the blast, Macron said he would ask the country’s political establishment “to carry out reforms… to change the system, to stop the division of Lebanon, to fight against corruption”.

Members of the crowd chanted “the people want the fall of the regime” as he spoke, indicating the widespread anger in Lebanon at a political class whose mismanagement and corruption they blame for Tuesday’s disaster.

Ammonium nitrate: What is it and how did it get to Beirut’s port?

Two days on, Lebanon is still reeling from a blast so huge it was felt in neighbouring countries, its mushroom-shaped cloud drawing comparisons with the Hiroshima atom bomb.

The provisional death toll stood at 145 but, with dozens missing and 5,000 wounded, the number of victims was expected to rise as rescue workers continued to comb through the rubble.

‘Lebanon is not alone’

Macron tweeted “Lebanon is not alone,” on arrival in the city before pledging France would coordinate international relief efforts

The president visited Beirut’s harbourside blast zone, now a wasteland of blackened ruins, rubble and charred debris where a 140m wide crater has filled with sea water.

Beirut blast: The final explosion of an evil state

Macron’s visit to the small Mediterranean country, France’s Middle East protege and former colonial-era protectorate, was the first by a foreign head of state since Tuesday’s unprecedented incident.

Offering a glimmer of hope amid the carnage, a French rescuer said there was a “good chance of finding… people alive,” especially a group believed to be trapped in a room under the rubble.

“We are looking for seven or eight missing people, who could be stuck in a control room buried by the explosion,” the colonel leading a rescue team told Macron as he surveyed the site.

Lebanese officials have blamed the disaster on a huge stockpile of highly explosive ammonium nitrate stored for years in unsafe conditions at Beirut port.

But many Lebanese people who have lost jobs and watched savings evaporate in a financial meltdown have blamed it on negligence by politicians who have benefited from decades of state corruption and bad governance. Source