Lebanese President Michel Aoun: speaks on Beirut explosion

By Agency Report

Lebanon’s president Michel Aoun said investigation into the biggest blast in Beirut’s history would examine whether it was caused by a bomb or other external interference.

“The cause has not been determined yet. There is a possibility of external interference through a rocket or bomb or other act,” President Michel Aoun told local media.

Aoun, who had previously said explosive material was stored unsafely for years at the port, said the investigation would also weigh if the blast was due to negligence or an accident.

Twenty people had been detained so far, he added.

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While the United States has said it did not rule out an attack, Israel, which has fought several wars with Lebanon, has denied any role.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said the cause was unclear, but compared the blast to a 2005 bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon’s powerful Shi’ite group Hezbollah, denied what he said were “preconceived” comments both domestically and abroad that the Iran-backed group had arms stored at the port.

He called for a fair investigation and strict accountability for anyone responsible without any political cover.

“Even if a plane struck, or if it was an intentional act, if it turns out this nitrate had been at the port for years in this way, it means part of the case is absolutely negligence and corruption,” he said.

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The customs director and a predecessor were arrested later on Friday.