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France’s Macron Seeks $350m in Donor Aid for Blast-Scarred Lebanon

France’s Macron Seeks $350m in Donor Aid for Blast-Scarred Lebanon
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By Staff, Agencies

French President Emmanuel Macron aims to raise at least $350 million in emergency aid for Lebanon on Wednesday at a donor conference held on the first anniversary of a massive blast that gutted part of Beirut.

The August 4, 2020 explosion in Beirut port killed at least 214 people, traumatizing the nation and bringing an already stuttering Lebanese economy closer to the brink of collapse.

Fuel, medicine and food have all grown scarce, but bickering between Lebanon’s political parties has held up the formation of a new government, delaying a much-needed international bailout.

France says Wednesday’s video conference, which is being co-hosted by Macron and United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, needs to raise $357 million to meet the most urgent needs of the Lebanese people in terms of food, health, clean water and education.

“One year after the tragedy, Lebanon can continue to count on France’s solidarity,” Macron tweeted ahead of the virtual meeting.

US President Joe Biden, Egyptian President Abdul Fatah Al Sissi and Lebanon’s own President Michel Aoun will be among the participants from around 40 countries and multilateral organizations, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the International Monetary Fund.

The conference is the third in aid of Lebanon to be organized by former colonial power France in as many years.

Each time, donors have pledged millions in emergency relief but conditioned a broader rescue plan on Lebanese politicians forming a government that commits to tackling rampant corruption, among reforms.

Lebanon has been without a government for all of the past year.

Najib Mikati, the billionaire businessman recently appointed prime minister, had hoped to form a cabinet by the anniversary of the blast but squabbling over cabinet posts continues.

“There is no still no progress on the formation of a government or the implementation of urgent reforms. Given the dramatic deterioration of the economic, this is irresponsible,” German foreign minister Heiko Maas, who is taking part in the donor conference, said on Wednesday.

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