Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday hoped that Lebanon’s situation become stable through cooperation among all parties following the massive explosion in Beirut last week that killed and injured thousands of people.
Zarif made the comments at a meeting with Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun in Beirut during which he expressed Iran’s sympathy and solidarity with the people of Lebanon over the devastating explosion.
Earlier in the day, Zarif held talks with Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. He told them that Iran is ready to help Lebanon reconstruct buildings damaged in the blast and cooperate with the country in meeting it needs in the aftermath of the blast.
He also warned that some Westerncounties are seeking to destabilize Lebanon by exploiting the current situation there.
The Aug. 4 blast at Beirut’s port killed nearly 180 people, injured over 6,000 and caused widespread damage in the capital.
Lebanon’s government resigned earlier this week under pressure and consultations between rival groups are ongoing over who will replace Diab. The process to form a new government could take months.
International humanitarian aid has poured in but some foreign states have linked any financial assistance to reform of the Lebanese state, which has defaulted on its huge sovereign debts.
During a visit to Beirut last week, French President Emmanuel Macron met political leaders in Lebanon and called on them to create a “new political order.”
Last week, in a joint statement after an international donor conference, world leaders urged Lebanese authorities to "fully commit themselves to timely measures and reforms" in order to access longer-term support for the country's recovery.
Zarif said Friday that Western countries should not take advantage of the explosion to dictate their own policies on Lebanon.
“We believe that the government and the people of Lebanon are the side that should decide on the future of Lebanon,” Zarif told a joint televised news conference after meeting with his caretaker Lebanese counterpart, Charbel Wehbe.
“No foreign side should take advantage of the catastrophic conditions and the needs of Lebanon to impose dictates that are in their interests.”
Lebanese local media reported that the US wants the new government in Lebanon to exclude the Hezbollah resistance movement.
Zarif described reported US attempts to dictate and impose a government leaving out major Lebanese political factions as “inhumane.”
“In our view it is inhumane to exploit the pain and suffering of the people for political goals,” he said.
"Others should not condition their aid on any change in Lebanon during this emergency situation," Zarif said, in what was seen as a reference to Western leaders.
President Aoun met Friday with US Undersecretary for Political Affairs David Hale and told him that the priority of the new government will be to conduct reforms and fight corruption, according to Aoun’s office.
Aoun has promised a swift investigation into the blast. He has said the probe would look into whether the cause was negligence, an accident or “external interference”.
On Thursday, Hale said the FBI will join Lebanese and other international investigators in the probe of Beirut’s massive explosion.
Earlier on Friday, the United Nations humanitarian affairs agency said in its report that the explosion has affected operations at six hospitals, up from an initial three, and damaged more than 20 clinics in the parts of Beirut worst hit by the blast.
Some 120 schools, used by 50,000 students, have been damaged. More than 1,000 of nearly 50,000 residential units were severely damaged, the UN report said.
The blast struck Beirut in the midst of a crippling financial and economic crisis, and the UN predicted people may have difficulties restoring or fixing their homes.
According to the world body, the Beirut port is operating at 30% capacity and the Tripoli port in the country's north, at 70%. That is allowing for food and goods to continue to flow. The World Food Programme is bringing in a three-month supply of wheat flour and grains.
It still wasn't known what caused the Aug. 4 fire that ignited nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut’s port. But documents have emerged in the wake of the explosion that show the country’s top leadership and security officials were aware of the chemicals being stored in the city port.
Lebanon’s Parliament on Thursday approved a state of emergency in Beirut in its first session since the tragic explosion last week, granting the military sweeping powers amid rising popular anger and political uncertainty.
AP, Reuters and AFP contributed to this story.