Beirut is officially under a state of emergency. The Lebanese Parliament on Thursday, August 13 approved the government's decision taken after the devastating explosion at the port. More than a week after the August 4 tragedy that left 171 dead and more than 6,500 injured, the social context remains agitated in Beirut, the Lebanese expressing their anger against their political class considered responsible for the explosion but also for the crisis Lebanese. At the same time, the French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, begins a support visit.

In a devastated Beirut, where entire neighborhoods are nothing more than fields of ruins, calls for demonstrations - little followed - have circulated on social networks to prevent the holding of the parliamentary session, which began at 11 a.m. (8 a.m. GMT) in a convention center in the capital.

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Chaired by the head of Parliament, Nabih Berri, in office since 1992, the session - the first since the tragedy - opened with the official submission of the resignations of several deputies who protest against the neglect of power, illustrated by the port explosion.

Policies under pressure

The drama of August 4, too much disaster for Lebanese already exhausted by an economic crisis, revived a protest movement launched in the fall of 2019 against the entire political class, accused of corruption, incompetence and negligence , and today held directly responsible for the explosion.

Many officials were aware, sometimes for months or even years, of the presence in a warehouse of the port of tons of ammonium nitrate, and this for six years, by the admission of some officials and according to sources. safe.

On Thursday, Parliament officially ratified the state of emergency, declared by the government the day after the tragedy for two weeks. The vote was necessary because, for any duration exceeding eight days, the Parliament must give its agreement, according to the NGO Legal Agenda.

It was not immediately clear, after the vote of the deputies, if the state of emergency began on Thursday, or if it was already considered in force since August 5.

The government had specified that under the state of emergency, a supreme military power would be in charge of the prerogatives in matters of security.

For the NGO Legal Agenda, such a measure could "undermine the freedom to demonstrate" and allow the army "to prevent gatherings considered a 'threat to security'".

In recent days, clashes have rocked the vicinity of Parliament on several occasions, the police firing tear gas at protesters throwing stones.

Florence Parly will meet Michel Aoun

At the same time, foreign visitors follow one another in Beirut. The French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, and the Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, David Hale, number three in American diplomacy, are traveling to the Lebanese capital on Thursday.

"It is a support visit, which serves in particular to reiterate the messages of the President of the Republic (..) and which reflects the major role of France in the crisis response", told AFP Noor Akl, press secretary of the French embassy in Beirut.

The minister's office also said Wednesday that one of the objectives was "to clear the port to make it operational again".

This trip comes a week after that of President Emmanuel Macron, who promised aid to the Lebanese and urged the authorities to initiate structural reforms in order to benefit from international reconstruction aid.

Florence Parly's visit also comes at the height of tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, an area rich in hydrocarbons and disputed between Turkey and Greece. France has temporarily deployed two Rafale fighters and two French Navy vessels there, according to a statement from the French Ministry of the Armed Forces on Thursday.

In Beirut, Florence Parly is scheduled to tour the site of the explosion and meet with President Michel Aoun as well as with the Commander-in-Chief of the Lebanese Army, Joseph Aoun.

The minister is due to host the Tonnerre helicopter carrier overnight from Thursday to Friday, which is transporting an army engineering group as well as a detachment of demining divers from the French Navy, in order to verify that there is no has no wrecks making it difficult to access the port. Food aid, particularly wheat, as well as construction materials supplied by various French ministries and private companies are also transported by the building.

Justice will question ministers

In addition, the Lebanese prosecution will question from Friday several ministers, former and current, about the presence for years at the port of Beirut of tons of ammonium nitrate.

"The interrogation will begin on Friday with the former Minister of Public Works Ghazi Aridi, before the summons next week" of at least three other ministers, including the current resigning Minister of Public Works, Michel Najjar, told the 'AFP the judicial source.

Former or current finance or justice ministers will also be summoned, according to this source.

"If a breach or negligence were found on the part of a minister, the (regular) justice will not be competent to prosecute them", she added.

The Attorney General will then have to transfer their case to Parliament, as competence will fall to a special Council responsible for prosecuting ministers and presidents.

With AFP

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