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A Year After Devastating Port Blast, Lebanon Gets Help, Criticism from French President

A national day of mourning was declared in Lebanon to mark the passing of a year since a massive explosion rocked the port of Beirut, killing at least 214 people, injuring thousands, and destroying thousands of homes and businesses across entire blocks of the country’s capital city. The blast, which was heard as far away as the island of Cyprus, 200 kilometers to Lebanon’s west, occurred after a fire broke out, igniting hundreds of tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate stored at the port. In the aftermath of the explosion, the country, already struggling to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, sank even deeper into the economic and political crises in which it has been mired for years. France and the United Nations hosted an international online conference Wednesday, with the aim of raising at least $350 million in humanitarian aid to the country. French President Emmanuel Macron opened the conference with sharp criticism for Beirut’s political elite, saying, “Lebanese leaders seem to bet on a stalling strategy, which I regret and I think is a historic and moral failure.” The French president pledged that his government would give 100 million euros ($118.6 million) to help the Lebanese people, but said, “There will be no blank check for the Lebanese political system. Because it is they who, since the start of the crisis but also before that, are failing.”