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Mixed responses as Lebanon weighs economic consequenses of blast

An Iraqi delegation headed by the Iraqi oil minister met the Lebanese prime minister, Hassan Diab, on Wednesday and informed him that Baghdad will provide fuel aid to Beirut after the blast on Aug. 4, according to a statement by the Lebanese government.

Lebanese local media also said that an amount of wheat will arrive on Friday from Iraq as an aid after the blast left the Lebanese capital short on wheat, according to the governor.


Beirut’s governor told Al Hadath TV on Wednesday that collective losses after Beirut’s blast on Aug. 4 may reach $10 billion to $15 billion, with the governor explaining the number includes both direct and indirect losses related to business.

The governor also told Al Hadath TV that amounts of available wheat are currently limited and he thinks a crisis might take place without international interference.



The red, white and cedar green of the Lebanese flag were lit up over a Tel Aviv square on Wednesday in a rare show of Israeli solidarity with Beirut as it reels from a devastating explosion.

Israel has been in a technical state of war with Lebanon for generations, and it deems the country’s armed Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah, backed by Iran, the biggest threat across its northern border. Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006 and have traded fire again in recent weeks.

But, arguing that “humanity comes before any conflict”, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai ordered City Hall on Rabin Square, named for the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, to be illuminated with the Lebanese flag on Wednesday evening.

“Our hearts are with the Lebanese people following this terrible tragedy,” Huldai wrote on Twitter.

At nightfall, windows on the 13-storey building’s facade were filled with light in the design of Lebanon’s flag: two horizontal red stripes enveloping a wider band of white, with a large green cedar tree – Lebanon’s national symbol – at the centre.

The decision drew criticism from some Israelis, including cabinet minister Rafael Peretz, who on Twitter likened it to “raising (an) enemy state’s flag in the heart of Tel Aviv”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had offered aid to Lebanon after the massive warehouse explosion in the port district of the capital Beirut on Tuesday that killed at least 135 people and injured over 5,000.

Lebanon has not responded to the overture, according to an Israeli defence official, who suggested that Israel with U.N. support could “set up and operate field hospitals on our side of the border and admit casualties from Lebanon”.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared Wednesday a day of mourning and ordered Palestinian flags in the territory lowered to half mast in solidarity with Lebanon.


The World Bank Group said on Wednesday it stands ready to assess Lebanon’s damage and needs after a devastating Beirut port explosion and will work to help mobilize public and private financing for reconstruction and recovery.

The World Bank said in a statement that it “would be also willing to reprogram existing resources and explore additional financing to support rebuilding lives and livelihoods of people impacted by this disaster.”

The Bank did not indicate which resources could be diverted to a blast recovery effort. In June, the multilateral development lender announced that it would reallocate $40 million from an existing $120 million health program for Lebanon to help the country fight the coronavirus pandemic.

At least 135 people were killed and 5,000 were injured in Tuesday’s explosion at Beirut port, which also left up to 250,000 without homes fit to live in after shockwaves smashed building facades

It was also unclear on Wednesday whether the disaster will alter Lebanon’s difficult negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. Since May, the IMF and Lebanon have been trying to work out a broader bailout package aimed at stemming a financial crisis that is seen as the biggest threat to the country’s stability since the 1975-90 civil war.

Those talks have bogged down amid disagreements over the scale of financial losses in Lebanon’s banking system.

The Fund has not made an official statement about the disaster beyond a tweet from Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva expressing her “deep sadness for the loss of lives, the injuries and the devastation” resulting from the explosion.

Scott Morris, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, said that donor support for Lebanon in the wake of the disaster would likely be strong.

“Lebanon’s macro and debt situation will add to the overall urgency for international support,” said Morris, a former U.S. Treasury international development official. “That said, it is highly unlikely that donor responses would serve as an alternative to reaching agreement with the IMF on a bailout.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday reaffirmed a “steadfast” but unspecific commitment to help Lebanon’s people

Source: Reuters

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