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'Rock bottom' Lebanon must reform for long-term aid: US

Reuters , Wednesday 19 Aug 2020
Lebanon
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, center, and U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea, left, visit the site of the Aug. 4 explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020 AP
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There is no more foreign money for a Lebanese leadership that enriches itself and spurns the popular will, a top U.S. official said on Wednesday, saying Lebanon had hit "rock bottom" with its Aug. 4 port explosion and must now enact profound reforms.

Undersecretary of State David Hale made the comments a week after visiting Lebanon following the blast that killed more than 172 people, injured 6,000, left 300,000 homeless and destroyed swathes of Beirut, compounding a deep financial crisis.

"They (the Lebanese people) see rulers who use the system in order to enrich themselves and to ignore popular demands," Hale said. "That era is over. There is no more money for that. They are at rock bottom and sooner or later, I believe, that the leadership will appreciate the fact that it is time to change."

"And if not, I am convinced that the public will increase the pressure on them," Hale added in a conference call in which he laid out a long list of needed policy changes, including carrying out fiscal and economic reforms, ending endemic corruption, improving transparency, addressing an inadequate electrical system and carrying out an audit of the central bank.

"What happened at the port (is) bad enough, but in many ways it's symptomatic of larger problems in Lebanon. Lebanese leaders have been ignoring their responsibility to ... meet the needs of the people and have resisted the kind of deep fundamental reforms that are needed," he said. "We can't fix that from the outside. Lebanese leaders have to demonstrate the political will and the commitment to do that and that was my main message."

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