France, UN to host new Lebanon aid conference amid deadlock

PARIS (AP) — France and the U.N. will host a new conference next week about aid to Beirut after its devastating port explosion in August, amid political deadlock and a worsening economic crisis in Lebanon, the French presidency said Friday.

Thousands of Lebanese are struggling to repair homes damaged in the blast, and there is no government initiative to rebuild what has been destroyed.

French President Emmanuel Macron and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will co-preside over the video conference Dec. 2, which will also include Lebanese nongovernmental groups and other organizations seeking to help, according to Macron’s office.

Nearly four months after the explosion forced the Lebanese government’s resignation, leaders are still struggling to form a new government amid ongoing political disagreements. The Lebanese army has offered small assistance for rebuilding Beirut, but the country’s severe economic crisis has further deteriorated.

Macron visited Beirut twice in the aftermath of the blast and promised to help the former French protectorate rebuild. But his initiative and roadmap for a new government that would enact urgent reforms has gone nowhere amid Lebanon’s political paralysis, and billions of dollars in international aid remain blocked.

The massive blast killed nearly 200 people and injured more than 6,000 when 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate detonated at Beirut’s port. It also devastated several neighborhoods, shattering thousands of residential, historic and other buildings. It is considered to be one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded.

The cause of the explosion still is not known, but it is widely seen as the culmination of decades of corruption and mismanagement by Lebanon’s ruling class.

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