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Lebanese government expected to step down Monday after Beirut blast, sources say



A senior ministerial source told CNN that he believed the government would sit on guardianship status until Monday evening. Three cabinet ministers have already left, along with seven members of parliament.

Lebanon was already suffering from its worst economic crisis in decades, coupled with rising coronavirus levels, and the government was plagued by allegations of corruption and gross mismanagement.

Tuesday’s blast, which damaged or destroyed much of the Lebanese capital and was linked to a neglected storm of potentially explosive chemicals, was the last straw for many Beirut residents.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab, a self-proclaimed reformer, was used in power last December, two months after a popular uprising toppled the previous government. The Diab government is made up of technocrats and backed by major political parties, including the Iran-backed political and militant group Hezbollah.

Now the country will have the task of finding a third prime minister in less than a year to fight the spiral crises facing Lebanon on a number of fronts.

Hassan Diab, photo in December 201[ads1]9.
Demonstrators gathered in a protest in Beirut on Saturday.

The Lebanese currency has lost 70% of its value since the start of anti-government protests in October. Poverty has risen, with the World Bank predicting that more than half the country’s population would be impoverished by 2020.

The government was also seen as powerless in the face of a growing banking crisis. The state has not passed a law on capital control, exacerbating the country’s severe crisis. Most people in the country have been subject to strict and arbitrary withdrawal limits for almost a year. Meanwhile, billions of US dollars are believed to have been withdrawn from Lebanon by the country’s economic elite, further depleting foreign exchange reserves.

Lebanon’s financial problems were exacerbated earlier this year by blockades imposed by the government, which were set up to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, but also brought the country’s potential economy to a sharp halt.

Diab ministers had repeatedly accused the ruling class of thwarting their reform plans. Politicians affiliated with the country’s banking elite torpedoed the IMF-backed government economic program, which was expected to plunge into bank profits.

The weekend protests were some of the largest and most violent cities the city has seen in nearly a year. The city retreated in anger as protesters occupied several government ministries and threw stones and pieces of glass at security forces. Police fired hundreds of rounds of tear gas as well as rubber bullets and, in some cases, live ammunition.

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