Lebanese PM steps down after Beirut blast, public anger

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BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) — Lebanon’s prime minister stepped down from his job yesterday in the wake of the catastrophic explosion in Beirut that has triggered public outrage, saying he has come to the conclusion that corruption in the country is “bigger than the State”.

The move risks opening the way to dragged-out negotiations over a new Cabinet amid urgent calls for reform. It follows a weekend of anti-government protests after the August 4 explosion in Beirut’s port that decimated the facility and caused widespread destruction, killing at least 160 people and injuring about 6,000 others.

In a brief televised speech after three of his ministers resigned, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said he is taking “a step back” so he can stand with the people “and fight the battle for change alongside them”.

“I declare today the resignation of this Government. May God protect Lebanon,” he said, repeating the last phrase three times.

The moment typified Lebanon’s political dilemma. Since October, there have been mass demonstrations demanding the departure of the entire sectarian-based leadership over entrenched corruption, incompetence and mismanagement.

But the ruling oligarchy has held onto power for so long — since the end of the civil war in 1990 — that it is difficult to find a credible political figure untainted by connections to it.

Diab blamed corrupt politicians, who preceded him, for the “earthquake” that has hit Lebanon.

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