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UN secretary-general says Lebanese politicians ‘paralyze' country, demands ‘truth' about Beirut blast

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Lebanon to meet with the country’s leaders amid the economic crisis.
Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra shows Lebanese PM Najib Mikati (R) meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (L) in Beirut on Dec. 20, 2021.

The head of the United Nations had harsh words for Lebanese politicians during a visit today. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Lebanon’s leaders must do more to alleviate suffering amid the country’s debilitating economic crisis. 

“The Lebanese people expect their political leaders to restore the economy, provide a functioning government, end corruption & safeguard human rights,” said Guterres in a tweet. “Political leaders do not have the right to be divided & paralyze the country.” 

Guterres met with several Lebanese politicians in Beirut, including President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and speaker of the parliament Nabih Berri. He also spoke with unnamed religious leaders, according to Guterres’ Twitter. 

Guterres also went to the northern city of Tripoli and met with Palestinian refugee students there. They noted food shortages and a lack of support for extracurricular activities, Lebanon’s official National News Agency reported. 

Lebanon is in the middle of a devastating economic crisis. The country is contending with a massive drop in the value of the Lebanese lira, food and gas shortages, and a barely functioning electricity grid, among other issues. 

The crisis began in 2019 and worsened last year with the Beirut port explosion. The government’s official probe into the deadly blast, which occurred when fertilizer caught fire and exploded in a warehouse, has yet to yield any convictions. The investigation has also been hampered by lawsuits from politicians implicated in the explosion. 

Guterres also criticized the Lebanese government for failing to adequately investigate the explosion. 

"An impartial & transparent investigation into this tragic event is crucial to ensure justice,” he tweeted after visiting the blast site. “The Lebanese people deserve the truth.” 

Guterres’ remarks to media after meeting Lebanese leaders were more positive. He said he was “encouraged” following the meetings with Aoun, Mikati and Berri. Guterres also expressed confidence that Lebanon will hold its scheduled elections in May, according to the National News Agency. 

Guterres added that he was “impressed” with the government’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. Lebanon’s Deputy Prime Minister Saadeh al-Shami said yesterday that Lebanon could reach an aid agreement with the global financial institution as early as January. 

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