Italian PM to visit Beirut in wake of devastating port blast

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will next week become the latest world leader to visit Beirut offering support in the aftermath of last month’s devastating port explosion. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 04 September 2020

Italian PM to visit Beirut in wake of devastating port blast

  • Conte to meet Lebanese politicians, representatives over recovery support  

ROME: Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will next week become the latest world leader to visit Beirut offering support in the aftermath of last month’s devastating port explosion.

According to Italian Foreign Undersecretary Manlio Di Stefano, the premier will on Tuesday hold “day-long talks with the top political and institutional figures in Lebanon and will also meet representatives of the local civil society.”

Last week, after meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun in Beirut, Italian Minister of Defense Lorenzo Guerini also announced that Conte would be making the trip.

Guerini described the PM’s coming visit as a new “tangible sign of the brotherhood between the two countries” following the ammonium nitrate blast in a dock warehouse on Aug. 4, which left more than 180 people dead and at least 6,000 injured.

In a telephone call with former Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab immediately after the huge explosion, Conte had expressed his country’s “deepest condolences” and offered his “unconditional support” to Lebanon.

A few days later Guerini flew to Beirut to present emergency aid, mobilized by his country’s military, which was transported in two Italian Navy vessels as part of a humanitarian mission dubbed Emergenza Cedri (Cedar Emergency). A field hospital, and the services of explosive and chemical experts were also made available to the Lebanese by the Italians.

Approximately 1,200 Italian soldiers who are part of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, which is under Italian command, are now stationed in Lebanon. In the past 38 years, Italian military forces have never ceased to be present in the country.

An Italian diplomatic source in Rome told Arab News that Conte would have talks in the Lebanese capital with Aoun, Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib, and “representatives of all the political forces in that country.”

According to Di Stefano the Italian PM would also visit the site of the explosion in the Port of Beirut and inspect the Italian emergency aid deployed there soon after the blast.

“The aim of this coming official visit is to testify and reaffirm, once again, that we want to contribute to reconstruct not only the Lebanese economy, but also social and political structures in that country,” he told the Italian Parliament’s Lower Chamber.

“Once the emergency phase has been overcome and the new Lebanese government has been formed, the international community will have to support the country’s economic and financial recovery and contribute to its full stabilization.

“Italy has always pursued this strategic target in the interests of the Mediterranean area and of the international community. We are and will continue to stand alongside Lebanon,” Di Stefano said.

He noted that at the CEDRE Conference in Paris in April 2018, Italy had pledged 120 million euros ($142 million) to strengthen Lebanese institutions and the country’s economy.

Lebanon is one of the main beneficiary countries of Italy’s development cooperation in sectors ranging from archaeological heritage to wastewater treatment infrastructures, and it also receives Italian support for vulnerable groups in the population and Syrian refugees living there.


Hezbollah responds to Netanyahu with a media tour of steel factory

Updated 24 min 3 sec ago

Hezbollah responds to Netanyahu with a media tour of steel factory

  • The local and international media accompanied the official of media relations in Hezbollah

BEIRUT: A few hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Hezbollah, during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, of having "secret headquarters in the southern suburbs of Beirut," the party organized a media tour of the Jnah area that Netanyahu referred to, to deny the information he provided.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah responded to Netanyahu in a live speech on Tuesday night, and called on the air the media to tour the facility that Netanyahu talked about and said: "We do not place our missiles, neither in the Beirut port, nor near a gas station, nor between homes, and we know." Well, where should we place our missiles? "

The local and international media accompanied the official of media relations in Hezbollah, Muhammad Afif, to the facility that Netanyahu talked about in Jnah area and it turned out to be a steel-cutting factory and said: "We are not scouts for the enemy and we do not provide him with information, but this tour aims to reveal that these facilities have no connection with storage Weapons of resistance. "

The media tour accompanied by supporters of the party chanting for Nasrallah, during which Muhammad Afif said: "The enemy's claims are false, and this industrial facility has existed for decades."

The owner of the industrial facility in the Janah, who came in hastily at night to open the plant to the media, said: "This is a steel-cutting factory. We have workers and we work normally. Our doors are always open to everyone, and there are no missiles in it as you can see."

This plant is located in the industrial area of ​​Jnah, on the administrative borders of Beirut. Netanyahu had said of it that has "missile depots a meter away from gas depots near Beirut airport."

In information released by its spokesman, Avichai Adrai, the Israeli army identified two additional sites, which he claimed "Hezbollah used to manufacture parts for precision-guided missiles."

“One of the two sites is an underground facility built under four seven-story residential buildings in which 70 families live in the Al-Laylaki neighborhood east of Beirut International Airport, and next to it is a church and a medical center, and the second facility is under a complex of five residential buildings in which about 50 families live in Choueifat, located about 90 meters from a mosque.