CAIRO: A huge explosion rocked the Hezbollah stronghold south of Beirut on Tuesday at 3 p.m. Local ..

Explosion in Hezbollah stronghold in Lebanon

CAIRO: A huge explosion rocked the Hezbollah stronghold south of Beirut on Tuesday at 3 p.m.

Local residents said that the blast struck the home of a Hezbollah member in the village of Ain Qana, 66 km from the Lebanese capital. It is believed that the house contained a Hezbollah arms depot. Photos taken after the explosion showed considerable damage to the building and the surrounding area.

Hezbollah set up a security cordon around the site restricting access, and the cause of the explosion was unknown. A large number of ambulances affiliated with Hezbollah arriving at the site but there was no information about casualties.

Meanwhile the political paralysis over the formation of a new government continues.

No early date was set for Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib to visit the presidential palace to present his proposed cabinet line-up to President Michel Aoun. That stalemate was reflected in the rise of the dollar, which reached more than LBP8,000 on the black market on Tuesday.

Aoun warned that Lebanon “was going to hell” if no agreement was reached. Together with Hezbollah and the Amal movement he opposes Adib’s disregard of the parliamentary blocs in distributing portfolios and choosing ministers. Hezbollah and the Amal movement refuse to let go of the finance portfolio and insist on naming all the Shiite sect’s ministers. They consider that what is currently happening is an attempt to deprive both parties of power in the government.

In a session of the Higher Islamic Council – which includes all the Lebanese Sunni authorities and figures – held by the grand mufti of the country, Sheikh Abdul Latif Deryan, it was said that Lebanon “is in an extremely dangerous situation and cannot wait any longer. We must do our best to help Adib and facilitate his task. The French initiative might be our last chance that we should hold on to and work for its success.”

The council called for respecting “the Taif Agreement, committing to the National Reconciliation Accord and implementing all its articles, not look for solutions outside the constitution, resulting in disputes that destabilize the country and lead to its loss.”

Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora stressed the need to commit to the French initiative in forming a “small mission government of competent specialists who are not affiliated with parties, prisoners of sectarian gangs or prisoners of political commitments from here and there.”

“The Lebanese constitution is very clear. No ministerial portfolio is restricted or monopolized by a specific sect or religion. Nothing prevents any Lebanese from becoming a minister. Therefore, it is not beneficial to involve Lebanon in new problems it does not need,” he said.

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, president of the Progressive Socialist Party, feared the “deliberate disruption” of attempts to form a government. He criticized “all the political powers involved for not recognizing Lebanon’s dangerous circumstances and wasting the last chance to save the situation through the French initiative.”

He said that “the president does not have the right to say that we are going to hell, that is irresponsible.” The US and Iran “do not want the formation of a government” in Lebanon, he said.

Meanwhile a meeting was held at the presidential palace on Tuesday to discuss the Banque du Liban’s reserve balance which now stands at $19 billion.

During the meeting chaired by President Michel Aoun, it was decided to “request the relevant ministries to hold more meetings with the Banque du Liban to develop an integrated map to support materials and basic goods for the longest period possible, while maintaining foreign-currency deposits”.

The bank warned more than a month ago that it was getting short on its reserves, which could pose a threat to subsidies for fuel, wheat and medicine in a few months.

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