Canada FM Offers Help In Lebanon Port Blast Probe

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Canada’s foreign minister Thursday offered help in investigating the cause of the colossal port explosion that ravaged Beirut on August 4.

 

During a tour of the capital, Francois-Philippe Champagne stressed the need for a “credible investigation” into the blast that killed more than 180 people including two Canadians and wounded thousands.

“Canada would like, under the right circumstances, to contribute to the investigation,” he told Lebanese press.

The United States has already sent FBI investigators to assist at the request of Lebanese authorities, and France has opened its own probe.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun accepted the Canadian offer.

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“We welcome the help that Canada wants to provide in the ongoing investigations over the explosion at the Beirut port,” Aoun told Champagne, according to the presidency.

The blast came after hundreds of tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been left unsecured for several years at the port, despite repeated warnings of the dangers it posed.

Western powers, international bodies and Lebanese at home and abroad have called for an international probe into the blast, but Lebanese authorities have rejected this.

Champagne also called for “economic and political reforms” as he met Lebanon’s caretaker foreign minister Charbel Wehbe.

A handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra on August 27, 2020 shows Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun (R) meeting with Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut. DALATI AND NOHRA / AFP.

The Canadian minister toured Beirut neighbourhoods devastated by the blast, and met the families of the two Canadians who were killed in the disaster.

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He said Canada would contribute an additional 8 million Canadian dollars ($6 million) to aid efforts to match the contribution of Canadians via a fund launched earlier this month.

Canada, which is home to a large Lebanese community, previously pledged 30 million Canadians dollars (more than $22 million) to help after the blast.

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In Lebanon’s ongoing probe, Judge Fadi Sawan has so far issued arrest warrants for 16 people.

He is next week due to start questioning six others, including the director-general of land and maritime transport and four senior security officers responsible for the port.

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